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About the book.

In our “look at me” era, privacy now seems a quaint relic. Everyone’s a brand. Self-effacement is a thing of the past. Yet as Nom de Plume reminds us, it wasn’t always like this.

Carmela Ciuraru explores the fascinating stories of more than a dozen authorial impostors across centuries and cultures, plumbing the creative process and the darker, often crippling aspects of fame.

Biographies have chronicled the lives of individual pseudonymous authors such as Mark Twain, Isak Dinesen, and George Eliot, but never before have the stories behind many noms de plume been collected into a single volume. These are narratives of secrecy, obsession, modesty, scandal, defiance, and shame.

A shy, half-deaf Victorian mathematician at Oxford felt free to let his imagination run wild only through the protective guise of Lewis Carroll.

The “three weird sisters” (as the poet Ted Hughes called them) from Yorkshire—the Brontës—produced instant bestsellers, transforming them into literary icons, yet they wrote under the cloak of male authorship. Emily and Anne were dead by the age of thirty, tragically never having achieved fame under their own names.

Bored by her aristocratic milieu, a cigar-smoking, cross-dressing Baroness rejected the rules of propriety by having sexual liaisons with men and women alike, publishing novels and plays as George Sand.

Grounded by research yet highly accessible and engaging, these provocative, astonishing stories reveal the complex motives of writers who hoarded secret identities—sometimes playfully, sometimes with terrible anguish and tragic consequences. A wide-ranging exploration of pseudonyms both familiar and obscure, Nom de Plume is part detective story, part exposé, part literary history, and an absorbing psychological meditation on identity and creativity.

Author photos by Pieter M. van Hattem.