The writers Jorge Díaz, Agustín Martínez and Antonio Mercero, who were hiding behind the pseudonym Carmen Mola, have won the Planeta 2021 Prize with The beast. The best-endowed award for letters in the world (for one million euros and higher than the 980,000 Nobel Prize) has fallen into the hands of a false author, deliberately constructed by her screenwriters, whose real identity has been revealed with the delivery of the prize. It has been a risky and unexpected decision, although the name was rumored in the hours before the award ceremony. The novel is a historical thriller about a serial murder.
Eva García Sáenz de Urturi and Sandra Barneda win the 2020 Planet awards
Antonio Mercero, scriptwriter of series such as Pharmacy open or Central Hospital, he writes for the same publishing house in which the novels signed as Carmen Mola, also thrillers, have been published. Unlike the winning novel, his latest work, High tide, published last April, it is set in the world of youtubers and instagrammers.
The second trophy has been obtained by Paloma Sánchez-Garnica with the historical novel Last days in Berlin. Grupo Planeta has also increased the endowment of the finalist, but in this case going from 150,000 euros to 200,000.
The ruling was handed down by the jury made up of José Manuel Blecua, Fernando Delgado, Juan Eslava Galán, Pere Gimferrer, Carmen Posadas, Rosa Regàs and Belén López. Kings Felipe VI and Letizia attended the award ceremony at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), but not the regional president, Pere Aragonès.
The official but fictitious biography of Carmen Mola is that she was 48 years old, was a university professor, lives in Madrid with her husband and three children and that Carmen Mola is not her real name. In fact, there are three screenwriters who have built the character, an idea that the writers themselves called “crazy” when they collected the award. It was unveiled in 2017 with the crime thriller The gypsy bride, edited by Alfaguara and turned into the biggest sales phenomenon of the label’s “black” line. Then they came The purple net (2019) and The babe (2021). A trilogy identifiable by having a fly on the cover and amassing several thousand euros.
Paloma Sánchez-Garnica is one of the familiar faces of the house. This graduate in Law and Geography has published her novels with Planeta since 2006, when she debuted with The great arcanum. Its biggest bestsellers have been The three wounds (2012), La sonata del silencio (2014), which TVE adapted in series, My memory is stronger than your forgetfulness (2016) and, above all, Sofia’s suspicion (2019), which has sixteen editions.
The same controversy as always
Despite the fact that more than 600 manuscripts have been submitted from Spain, Latin America and Europe, the ruling was not surprising. Miguel Delibes denounced him in 1979 and Juan Marsé in 2005, but every year the hare jumps. The winners of the sweetest contest in this country (and now in the world) are not casual, they are not anonymous and they depend more on commercial criteria than on literary ones.
With this year’s ruling, Planeta repeats a move similar to that of previous years.
Take the last two editions as an example. In 2019, Javier Cercas and Manuel Vila won the award. Sales of Soldiers of Salamis (2001), published in Penguin Random House, allowed the former to dedicate himself solely to the profession of writing. The launch of Ordesa (2018) placed the second as a literary phenomenon in more than twenty different lists and Penguin as the owner of a millionaire series of novels that has not stopped growing in three years.
In 2020, Eva García Sáenz de Urturi and the presenter Sandra Barneda won. The former is known above all for its Trilogy about the white city, inspired by his hometown and composed by The silence of the white city, The water rites and The time lords, which to date have produced more than fifty editions and the magic number of one million readers. All of them published in Planeta. As for the literary debutante Barneda, her name is far from being unknown to the general public: she presents the leading Mediaset audience program, The island of temptations.
Javier Cercas with his winning novel of the Planet sold 250,000 copies in Spain and Latin America and in its Catalan edition, and Manuel Vilas sold 120,000 copies. For its part, Aquitaine, by Sáenz de Urturi, has been one of the most read books of 2020.
A Planet that continues to belong to men
Despite the fact that the last two editions have featured female literature, the numbers still do not add up. Since Grupo Planeta inaugurated the award in 1952, there have been 56 men (counting the three behind Carmen Mola) compared to 16 women. That is to say, 75% of the voices that reach the bestseller shelf are male.
Rosa Regàs, who was one of the few to win the award in 2001, does not believe there is a reason to justify this, since, as she assured this newspaper in 2018, the works are presented under a pseudonym. “I do not think there is a different way of writing between men and women. But sometimes you can guess because the subject they deal with gives you some clue,” confessed the writer who participated in the 2018 ruling and now also in 2021.
“I introduced myself to Nadal with the name of Brandon Becker, which was the name of my donkey. I must say that I did not pay attention to the pseudonyms this time, but there are people who pay more attention,” Regàs slipped. Even so, it is impossible to know how many of the 17 women who have taken over the Planet hid their identities and how many of them would have served them for something.