A prize of one million euros and one of the great mysteries of Spanish literature solved: the Planeta Prize awarded this Friday to The beast, the last work of who was presented under the pseudonym Carmen Mola, behind which in reality three male authors were hiding until now.
The long-awaited ruling of the 70th edition of the award, which this year became one of the best gifted in the world, revealed an even bigger unknown than the winner: the identity behind the enigmatic signature Carmen Mola, whose trilogy on Inspector Elena Blanco has sold more than 400,000 copies. And something else: so far, the books of Carmen Mola they were published by Penguin Random House, the biggest competition of the Planeta group. Something similar had already happened in 2019, when Javier Cercas, one of the most relevant names of PRH in Spanish, was the winner of the Planet.
Despite the intrigue around the character, the mystery surrounding the bestseller could not be revealed and only at the time of the award it was learned that the successful thriller trilogy under this pseudonym was not the work of a discreet teacher from Madrid but of three writers.
The finalist for the award was Paloma Sánchez-Garnica with his work Last days in Berlin, which will receive a reward of 200,000 euros, indicated the jury of this contest in Barcelona (northeast of Spain).
The beast, the winning novel of this prestigious award, which had been submitted to the contest under a pseudonym different from that of Carmen Mola, is set in the traditional Madrid of 1834, in the midst of a cholera epidemic. It tells the story of a journalist, a policeman and a girl who will try to reveal what is behind a wave of murders of humble young people in the city.
The case that was resolved tonight at the dinner presided over by the Kings of Spain at the National Art Museum of Catalonia is who the enigmatic Mola was. And reality has nothing to do with what she had said so far in her interviews through questionnaires, where she claimed to be a woman born in Madrid in 1973, where she lived with her husband and three children. The pseudonym under which the novel was presented was Sergio Lopez and the fictional title of his work was “City of Fire.”
“Behind the name of Carmen Mola there is not, as in all the lies that we have been telling, a high school teacher, but three writers, three screenwriters and three friends (…), that one day four years ago we had an idea, that it was crazy in principle, it was to unite our talent, a lot or a little, to write a story together “, he explained Jorge Diaz after collecting the award.
“This story was successful and turned into another, into another … and in the end it has brought us here until tonight,” added Díaz about the sales success of the crime novel trilogy with which the film was released. enigmatic Mola, who from her anonymity claimed to have no interest in fame.
Elusive and austere, critics soon saw in this supposed teacher the “Spanish Elena Ferrante”, alluding to the successful Italian author who also prefers to hide her identity.
The surprise was the culmination of the traditional literary dinner where the record of this award is revealed, which was already the one with the highest economic endowment of Hispanic letters, with 601,000 euros for the winner and 150,250 euros for the finalist. But, unexpectedly, the organizers announced that the prize foreseen for the winner of this 70th edition soared to one million euros (1.16 million dollars).
With this increase, the Planet exceeds the endowment of the Nobel Prize for Literature, of 10 million Swedish crowns (about 980,000 euros or 1.1 million dollars).
Other awards of great international prestige such as the British Booker Prize, endowed this year with 50,000 pounds (about $ 69,000) or the French Goncourt, whose winner receives a symbolic check of 10 euros, offer much smaller sums.
With careful staging and abundant publicity, the Premio Planeta usually serves as a springboard to multiply the sales of authors already known in the Spanish literature scene.
With a record number of participants, This year 654 originals competed for the award, mostly from Spain (389) and Latin American countries such as Argentina (41), Mexico (39) or Colombia (18).
In the list of winners of this distinction there are Nobel Prize winners in Literature such as the Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa or spanish Camilo José Cela, as well as other prestigious writers such as Eduardo Mendoza, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Soledad Puértolas, Maruja Torres, Juan Marsé and Jorge Semprún.
The jury for the 70th edition was made up of the Spanish philologist and academic Jose Manuel Blecua, the writers Fernando Delgado placeholder image, Juan Eslava, Pere Gimferrer, Carmen Posadas, Rosa Regàs and the editorial director of Planeta, Bethlehem Lopez.
* With information from AFP
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The bestseller Carmen Mola won the Planeta Prize but it does not exist: behind her name there are three male authors