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‘Content, not name vital’

“The happiest person is he who is least curious, stays away from people and gets satisfied with little,” Persian Mathematician, Astronomer and Poet Omar Khayyám (1048 – 1131).

Writing is a world of bliss and passion for those who love it. It is a cure for the complicated condition of the sick or a warm cup of coffee at the start of the day.

Given that the hobby of writing is parallel with reading, whenever I hear or read about writing, it is imperative for reading to be overwhelmingly present in the sea of pleasure.

The works of some writers are published under their real names, while others prefer pseudonyms. Both of them have reasons for their preferences, convincing or otherwise. What matters most is the quality of the written content irrespective of the name or alias of the writer.

In fact, some writers become more creative when they use aliases rather than their real names. As I mentioned earlier, everyone has his or her own reasons when it comes to using the real name or the alias. The rest is left for an impartial reader to talk about the topic and the content, not the persona of the writer.

Nonetheless, it is easy for any voracious reader to distinguish the writing style of his favorite writer. This is because the writing style of the writer is like his DNA code such that it is difficult to mislead his avid readers even if he publishes two articles under different pseudonyms.

History has known writers in the past and modern times, many of whom wrote under aliases due to fear, avoidance of social or political discomfiture or any other reason. A good example of such kind of people is the French writer commonly known by his alias, ‘Voltaire’.

Voltaire’s real name is François-Marie Arouet. Perhaps, he chose this alias in a bid to dust off any link with his father or family. It is as if he opted to use the alias to establish an independent persona which is different from that related to his real name.

In Eastern Literature, there is a historic figure in poetry known as ‘Ta’abbata Sharra’ whose real name is Thabit bin Jaber. Former Sudanese diplomat Muhammad Basher Ahmad published an article in which he confessed that he had been hiding behind the name ‘Abdul-Aziz Hussein Al-Swawi’ writing about intellectual and political issues in the past quarter of a century.

Also, Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hasani, a French-appointed Syrian leader and politician during the French mandate on Syria, published his articles under the alias ‘Abu Al-Dhiyaa’ when he worked as editor of Damascus magazine ‘Al-Haqaaeq’ and the newspaper ‘Al-Sharq’, including many others that we cannot mention due to time, space and occasion.

As I mentioned earlier in this article, the reader needs to adhere to objectivity of the content he or she is reading, not the persona of the writer. It is disturbing to see people going to the extreme of uncovering the identities of those behind aliases.

Morally, what will someone achieve from discovering the names of individuals behind aliases when it comes to writing? Is it curiosity, ignorance or bad manners?

I think the latter… Hence, the reader should focus on the content presented by the writer. From there, he can judge the content discreetly. If the reader does not like what he reads, there are thousands of books out there that can satisfy him.


By Yousef Awadh Al-Azmi



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