By Stephen Smith
An Inkwell of Pen Names tells the tales of a hundred authors' pen names in 100 brief chapters. Many different authors who used pen names are mentioned by the way. good points of the compendium comprise pen names starting with each letter of the alphabet, authors from twenty-five nations, the recipients of the Nobel Prize for literature who used pseudonyms, and a balanced collection of women and men authors.
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Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914) was a French poet and Nobel Prize laureate who wrote in Provençal, a dialect of southern France and the language of the troubadors in the Middle Ages, in an effort to revive it as a literary language. Some biographers believe that Alcayaga derived her pen name from these two authors whose writing she liked. Alcayaga combined the feminine form of Gabriele with the surname Mistral to form the pseudonym, Gabriela Mistral. Other biographers believe that the author formed her pen name from the name of a divine messenger, the Archangel Gabriel, and from the mistral, a cold, dry, northerly wind whose currents move swiftly over southern France.
Beyle wrote a great deal, but few of his works are considered great. Two of his best novels are Le Rouge et le noir (The Red and the Black), published in 1830 and La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma), published in 1839. Stendhal was not alone in turning a place name into a pen name. Elizabeth Cartwright (1780-1837) began writing after her marriage to Reverend John Penrose in 1814. She adopted Mrs. Markham as her literary name. The name was taken from Markham Moor, a village near Nottingham, England, where her aunts lived.
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), a Chilean poet, was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1971. Like Alcayaga, Neruda adopted a pseudonym as a young poet. Neruda’s real name was Ricardo Eliecer Neftalí Reyes, but he took the name Pablo Neruda, derived from Jan Neruda (1834-1891), a Czech author, in 1919. Children and mothers were among Alcayaga’s favorite topics. Among the ways she demonstrated her love for children was to give the proceeds from her third book of verse to Basque children whose parents were killed in the Spanish Civil War.