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Anonymous Author

Anonymous Author

Staying anonymous isn't as easy as it once was. When all of our lives are online, we can't hide by closing the curtains or changing cities anymore. Every move we make on the web leaves a digital footprint, and every digital footprint contains information that points to our likes, dislikes, habits, and routines. While anonymous authorship was once commonplace, remaining truly anonymous in the internet era is a challenge, especially if people are intent on discovering who you are.

Against all odds, The Secret Footballer is an anonymous author whose name remains a mystery. Despite revealing the darkest secrets of the premier league for years, The Secret Footballer's true identity is yet to be discovered. Hints have been given, theories examined, and candidates proposed, but no evidence has been conclusive. Let's look into the meaning of being an anonymous author, The Secret Footballer's work as an example, and books and poems by other anonymous authors.

Anonymous author: meaning

Many works of literature, both historically and recently, have been released by anonymous authors. But what does that mean? Here's a simple definition to explain the term:

An anonymous author is a writer whose identity is unknown. Their works are either published completely anonymously or under a pen name (a pseudonym that the author adopts and uses in their work instead of their real name).

Anonymous author: I am The Secret Footballer

Since 2011, an anonymous male premier-league footballer known only as 'The Secret Footballer' has published an extensive body of work revealing the previously untold mysteries of premier-league football. What started as a weekly column in the British newspaper The Guardian quickly became a successful book series.

I am The Secret Footballer: Lifting the Lid on the Beautiful Game (2012) is the first of five novels by The Secret Footballer. The book exposes the inner workings of a professional football team with remarkable honesty, detailing player attitudes, the relationship players have with fans, and issues regarding racism and homophobia in the sport. Since then, the anonymous author has published four more books:

  • Tales From The Secret Footballer (2013)
  • The Secret Footballer's Guide to the Modern Game (2014)
  • The Secret Footballer: Access All Areas (2015)
  • How to Win: Lessons from the Premier League (2017)

Each of these novels offers further insight into the secretive world of professional football.

Anonymous Author, Top Secret, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Everyone loves to receive information that they believe is top secret.

The series' popularity is heightened by the mystery surrounding its author. Fans are constantly left guessing who 'The Secret Footballer' is; despite many pundits proposing plausible theories, none have proven conclusive.

Did you know? It is believed that only three people know the true identity of The Secret Footballer!

Fans of the series have resorted to desperate measures in their attempts to discover the identity of The Secret Footballer. A website dedicated to the author tracks, archives, and cross-examines information from the book to pinpoint the most likely candidates! So far, they know that The Secret Footballer is male, that he is English, white, has played in two separate clubs, and was relegated from the premier league on its final day.

Being an anonymous author

An author may choose to write anonymously for a variety of reasons. Some hide their identity based on personal beliefs, others because of the limitations imposed upon them, and some because of how their writing may be perceived. Let's explore each rationale behind remaining anonymous in more detail.

Controversial topics

If a writer wishes to discuss sensitive topics, they may choose to remain anonymous. This allows them to express their opinion without fear of repercussion. With his candid discussion of football's dark mysteries, 'The Secret Footballer' falls into this category. He has openly stated that revealing his identity would make him a controversial figure among colleagues and footballing officials; remaining anonymous allows him to tell all his stories without fear of being sued.

Using anonymity as a tool to address controversial topics is a touchy subject.

On the one hand, it allows authors like The Secret Footballer to lay bare the problems in large organisations without fear of punishment for their actions. This is especially crucial if the writer exposes an organisation from within it, putting their career at risk.

On the other hand, the internet has made anonymity a dangerous weapon. Anyone can now write controversial, hateful, or abusive content about anything or anyone they like. This lack of accountability allows malicious internet users to say whatever they wish without fear of consequence. The Government is continuously adding new measures to its Online Safety Bill to fight against anonymous abusers.

Societal limitations

Authors may choose to remain anonymous because it allows them to avoid legal, political, or social limitations that society has imposed upon them.

Many female authors have historically masked their true identities to avoid unjust treatment and give their literature a fair chance. In the 19th century, some female writers adopted male pen names to help their work be published and accepted in male-dominated literary circles. For example, Mary Ann Evans (1819-80) used the pen name George Eliot, and the Bronte sisters, Anne (1820-49), Charlotte (1816-55), and Emily (1818-48), published under Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell, respectively.

Other writers may be forced to conceal their identity to avoid prosecution. Between the 1940s and 1960s, Brian O'Nolan (1911-66) used pen names Myles na gCopaleen and Flann O'Brien to publish journalistic work because Irish civil servants were forbidden to write about anything political.

No, that's not a typo! 'Myles na gCopaleen' is Gaelic, and Brian O'Nolan used the pseudonym for all of his Gaelic works.

To avoid overexposure

In rare cases, some writers use pen names to avoid overexposure laws or to avoid oversaturating their audience with their work. This is common in newspapers, in which a writer may use different pseudonyms if they have written multiple articles, so the reader feels like they are hearing from a diverse range of authors.

Stephen King is the most famous author to have chosen a pen name for this purpose. As a famously quick horror fiction writer, King's publishers wanted to avoid oversaturating the market with the 'Stephen King' brand. King adopted the pen name 'Richard Bachman', allowing him to maintain his relentless writing routine without risk of running into harsh publishing legislation.

King also claims that he wanted to test whether he could still be a successful writer, even under a different name. It turns out that his success was no accident! King's pseudonym sold a respectable amount of copies before people began to suspect that Bachman was actually the world's most famous horror writer in disguise!

To avoid celebrity status

Privacy is a significant concern in the digital age. Many celebrities do their best to stay out of the limelight as much as possible. Some writers may choose to remain anonymous simply to avoid celebrity status and keep their personal lives private. That said, with advanced technology and the power of the internet, staying out of the public eye is increasingly challenging, and the possibility of remaining truly anonymous is now slimmer than ever.

Despite this, remaining anonymous in the modern day is still possible. The identity of the Secret Footballer is still a mystery. Some successful authors have pen names that have lasted for decades without their real identity ever being discovered. For example, Italian novelist Elena Ferrante's identity remains a mystery. Despite releasing multiple popular, globally recognisable novels, she has maintained her pseudonym since the release of her first novel in 1992. She claims that a book does not need an author once published and that anonymity is key to her writing process.

Anonymous author: books

Let's explore some famous examples of anonymous books:

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

This fourteenth-century poem, of which only one manuscript survived, tells the epic tale of King Arthur's round table. The text also contained three poems, including the famous 'Pearl', which earned the anonymous author the name 'The Pearl Poet'. It is believed that the poet was from the West Midlands, owing to the regional dialect used throughout his work. Although convincing theories have been proposed to explain the identity of the Pearl Poet, none have been conclusive, and to this day, his true identity remains unknown.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

The first edition of Mary Shelley's (1797-1851) Frankenstein (1818) was initially published anonymously. Shelley believed that the subject matter would cause anger and outrage if the public realised that she was a woman. Horror was seen as an 'off-limits' genre for female writers. Frankenstein was a success with the public, but critics were quick to dismiss the work upon discovering that Shelley was a woman.

The writer of it is, we understand, a female; this is an aggravation of that which is the prevailing fault of the novel; but if our authoress can forget the gentleness of her sex, it is no reason why we should; and we shall therefore dismiss the novel without further comment (The British Critic).1

This excerpt from a misogynistic review focuses primarily on Shelley's gender over the merits of her novel. The discriminatory treatment here highlights the appeal of anonymity for many 19th-century female authors.

Misogynism is the ingrained belief that men are superior to women, and someone who holds this belief is considered misogynistic.

Anonymous author: poems

Let's look into some popular examples of anonymous poetry:

Beowulf

Perhaps the most famous anonymous poem, and certainly the most famous work of Old English Literature, is Beowulf (c. 975–1025), an epic poem featuring 3,182 lines of alliterative verse. The author is still unknown, referred to only as the Beowulf poet. It is believed that the poem may have been completed by multiple collaborating poets who preserved the story in a single manuscript.

One of the key reasons that many novels and poems from past generations were published anonymously is that old stories were designed to be recited orally rather than read.

Many narratives were spoken aloud for years before being committed to text. The stories were frequently edited, altered, and expanded upon, meaning that each region could have its own distinct retelling of a traditional narrative. This makes creating a written version of the story no easy task. With so many different versions of the story coming from various people, it is hard to attribute the text to a definitive author.

Pasquinades

Sometimes poets choose to remain anonymous because the content of their poems is offensive, political, or satirical. For an interesting example of this, look no further than pasquinades!

Pasquinades are a short form of anonymous, aggressively satirical verse. The name derives from a roman statue nicknamed 'Pasquino', dating back to the third century BCE, which citizens have used to comment on politics since the fifteenth century.

Today, locals still use 'Pasquino' to vent their frustrations, create satirical poetry, and leave witty remarks. However, messages are now confined to a board next to the statue, as it's forbidden to damage the original stone.

Anonymous author, Pasquino Statue, StudySmarterFig. 2 - The famous 'Pasquino' statue, which people use to comment on different topics, dates back to the third century BCE

Anonymous Author - Key takeaways

  • An anonymous author is a writer whose identity is unknown. Their works are either published completely anonymously or under a pen name.
  • An anonymous author may be hiding their identity because of personal beliefs, as a result of the limitations imposed upon them, or because of how their writing may be perceived.
  • The Secret Footballer has authored five novels that expose the inner workings of professional football and explore racism, sexism, and homophobia in the sport.
  • The Secret Footballer chooses to remain anonymous because he fears he may be sued if he reveals his identity.
  • Authors may also choose to remain anonymous because it allows them to avoid legal, political, or social limitations that society has imposed upon them.

References

  1. The British Critic. New Series. Vol. 9. April 1818.

Frequently Asked Questions about Anonymous Author

When citing an anonymous author, some suggest writing 'Anonymous' in place of the author's name, while others suggest leaving the author name blank entirely.

The anonymous author of I Am the Secret Footballer is still unknown.

Being a completely anonymous author in the modern day is extremely difficult. It would require revealing your identity to very few people. Even your closest friends couldn't know your true identity.

Writers write anonymously to avoid celebrity status, to talk about controversial topics or to avoid societal limitations.

There are some anonymous authors still publishing today, including The Secret Footballer and Elena Ferrante.

Final Anonymous Author Quiz

Question

Who is The Secret Footballer?

Show answer

Answer

'The Secret Footballer' is an anonymous former professional footballer turned writer.

Show question

Question

What does The Secret Footballer write about?

Show answer

Answer

The author consciously tries to diverge from the stereotype that life as a footballer is lavish and indulgent. He instead reveals the gritty, day-to-day life of a working professional.

Show question

Question

What did The Secret Footballer do before releasing his own set of books?

Show answer

Answer

At first, The Secret Footballer wrote exclusively in a column for The Guardian, a British daily newspaper. 

Show question

Question

What inspired The Secret Footballer?

Show answer

Answer

In his book, The Secret Footballer reveals that an anonymous newspaper column written by an estate agent inspired him to write his own.

Show question

Question

How many books has 'the secret footballer' written?

Show answer

Answer

1.

Show question

Question

How do the opinions of The Secret Footballer compare to that of football fans?

Show answer

Answer

'The secret footballer' claims that fans are often overly optimistic about what their club can accomplish, making them unjustifiably angry when their team doesn't live up to their unrealistic expectations. He also firmly disagrees with many fans on the issue of footballer pay, arguing that high wages have not 'ruined the game' and are fair compensation for their work.

Show question

Question

In his book, The Secret Footballer only talks about the highs of the game. Is this true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

The identity of The Secret Footballer is now known. Is this true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True. 

Show question

Question

What are the current suspicions about the identity of The Secret Footballer?

Show answer

Answer

It is currently suspected that The Secret Footballer is English, grew up on a council estate, and signed his first professional contract at 21 years old. It is also believed that his team have been relegated from the premier league on the final day and that he has played for at least two separate clubs over the course of his career.


Show question

Question

What are the benefits of writing anonymously?

Show answer

Answer

Aside from the marketing benefits of writing anonymously, remaining unknown also allows the author to write candidly without fear of repercussion. The Secret Footballer has expressed concern that they would be sued if they were to reveal their identity.

Show question

Question

What is an anonymous author?

Show answer

Answer

An anonymous author is a writer whose identity is unknown.

Show question

Question

How is an anonymous author's work normally published?

Show answer

Answer

Their works are either published completely anonymously or under a pen name. 

Show question

Question

What is a pen name?

Show answer

Answer

pen name is a pseudonym that the author adopts and uses in their work instead of their real name. 

Show question

Question

Why would a writer choose to be anonymous?

Show answer

Answer

An author may choose to write anonymously for a variety of reasons. Some hide their identity on personal beliefs, others as a result of the limitations imposed upon them, and some because of the way their writing may be perceived.

Show question

Question

Why is using anonymity as a tool to address controversial topics a touchy subject?

Show answer

Answer

On one hand, it allows authors to lay bare the malpractice and negligence of large organisations without fear of being punished for their actions. On the other hand, the internet has made anonymity a dangerous weapon. Anyone can now write controversial, hateful, or abusive content about anything, or anyone they like.

Show question

Question

The Online Safety Bill is an attempt to fight against anonymous abusers. Is this true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

How does being anonymous help female writers?

Show answer

Answer

Historically, many female authors have masked their true identities to avoid unjust treatment, and to give their literature a fair chance. In the 19th century, some female writers adopted male pen names to help their work be published and accepted in male-dominated literary circles.

Show question

Question

Give an example of when some writers use pen names to avoid overexposing their audience to their work.

Show answer

Answer

Newspapers - a writer may use different pseudonyms if they have written multiple articles so the reader feels like they are hearing from a diverse range of authors.


Show question

Question

What was Stephen King's pen name?

Show answer

Answer

Richard Bachman.

Show question

Question

How did Stephen King's pen name help him?

Show answer

Answer

It allowed him to maintain his relentless writing routine without risking his audience growing tired of his work.

Show question

Question

Every author wants to ensure they have a celebrity status, which is why they will not choose to be anonymous. Is this true or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

How many people know the true identity of The Secret Footballer?

Show answer

Answer

0.

Show question

Question

Which novel received a misogynistic review from the British Critic?

Show answer

Answer

Frankenstein (1818).

Show question

Question

Which was the fourteenth-century poem, of which only one manuscript survived?

Show answer

Answer

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1839).

Show question

Question

Why were many novels and poems from past generations published anonymously?

Show answer

Answer

This is because they were designed to be recited orally rather than read. 

Show question

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