It is normal than exception to relate using pseudonym as a prelude for rampant ‘censorship cultures’ in Authoritarian regimes where freedom of press is substantially restricted from effectively exercising. The fact it is humane to consider our ‘faculty to press’ made us to impress more for the freedom of press. The socialist Ethiopia was known to publish novels through hard rules of censorship. Censorship was a deliberate effort to subdue Literatures for a given popular ideology. For that matter, Totalitarian regimes required full compliance of the literary content with those tenets of socialism. To get the literary genie out of totalitarian jar, the adaptive capability of the literary camps led also unidentified publisher house. In general the problems of exercising freedom of expression and conscience in totalitarian environment are multifold. Moreover, we also see so many publications are found without mentioning date of publication. It is an irresponsible move to have an undated publication with unknown publisher since neither comparison nor referencing/indexing would be possible in undated publication.
Ever since, we had so many books with pseudonyms and unknown publisher due to various reasons. Against this backdrop, the defunct Kuraz Printing press – a state owned press during Ethiopian socialist regime, was historic enough whose editorial board appeared to publicize books of many through skewing the mandatory censorship net towards encouraging authors. Also ‘Addis Zemen’ was popular to have a literature corner for novella and book critique. And mostly debates on literature were showcased in a pseudonym through using gray fields of their editorial policy. Indeed, no one can miss how the society felt indebted for those editors in chiefs.
However, the use of pseudonym is yet unabated. However our justifiable myopia has led us to neglect as to why peoples still pay attention for considering ‘pseudonym’ for writing. Once a scholar called Hortense Calisher’s article dubbed ‘Portrait of a Pseudonym’ found out that, authors apart from political safeguard may indulge themselves for ‘pseudonym’. In such endeavor, they may escape their friends and relatives from knowing what they wrote. Also, they may have the golden rule of thumb workable for authors as they initially are advised to bore their books forward and appear publicly after the reputation of their product is maintained. It will also negotiate the rift between author’s personality and professionalism. Indeed the only limitation of employing pseudonyms, it’s uncertainty for book critique forums to make remain pseudonymous. Provided that the public event can’t help to disguise the identity of authors as the author of the book under critique ought to reflect, unless defend the book.
That is why we still have pseudonyms who appear publicly as household name. Thus far, Tertiyos ze Vatican, Douglass Petros, Ashenafi Ze Debub, Adonis, Yohannes S, and many more are on still on the air to seem timeless pseudonyms . Unconsciously, much of them remained to be household name. Thus far, biographies were released. Several novels were authored, poems were chanted, numerous foreign book were translated using pseudonyms. Notwithstanding the public ought not be confused with the identity of the Pseudonymous authors, after revelation of who had really wrote those products, the literary camp has got sense of the power of arguments. For instance, ‘Douglas Petros’ were revealed to be Getachew Belete-the former president of Ethiopian Authors association. On various spot of interview he shared the benefit he got as fallacies were kept aside momentarily once the author keeps his identifier. In his memoire, he kept how his debate along with Ashenafi Ze Debube was provocative on the Amharic paper ‘Addis Zemen’ displayed the debate. Although, up until recently, the later didn’t exposed his real identity even after the debate exercise.
By way of concluding, pseudonyms are grounded in ‘cultures of secrecy’, and need for taking refuge for pursuit of impersonal argument, apart from the iron laws of censorship under authoritarian regimes. Significantly, Ethiopian literatures showcased ‘pseudonyms’ for various ends on which we can have the chance to ponder. HOHE Awards is mindful of authors with pseudonyms to reveal themselves from hiding place and engage on praise and critique of their product. Good day!
(This article is contributed by HOHE Awards. HOHE Awards started in 2017, is an annual award presented for an author of a distinguished book possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues)