Many authors have published anonymously through history, including Jane Austen, whose books were all published anonymously during her lifetime. However, I have only included literary works whose authors are either unknown or we know nothing about.
Here are 7 anonymously published works. They are presented in chronological order.
Set in Scandinavia, Beowulf is an Old English epic poem that was written between the 8th and early 9th century. It is regarded as one of the most important works of Old English literature, and may well be the oldest surviving long poem in Old English. The author of Beowulf was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, who is commonly referred to as the ‘Beowulf poet’.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
This late 14th century Middle English chivalric romance is one of the most famous of the Arthurian stories. Written in stanzas of alliterative verse, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was influenced by Irish, Welsh, English and French traditions. The poem survives as a single manuscript, which also includes 3 narrative poems. To this day the author remains a mystery.
Lazarillo de Tormes
La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes y de sus fortunas y adversidades is a Spanish novella, which was published in 3 cities in 1554. The novella’s content was regarded as heretical due to its open criticism of the Catholic Church, and this is most likely the reason that it was published anonymously. Various authors have been attributed to this important work.
The Romance of Lust
The Romance of Lust is a Victorian erotic novel that was published in 4 volumes between 1873-1876. The novel’s protagonist is Charlie Roberts, a man with a voracious sexual appetite. There has been much debate over who the author of this controversial book was. The general consensus is that William Simpson Potter or Edward Sellon, a well-known Victorian author of erotic novels, most likely wrote it.
Novel with Cocaine
Novel with Cocaine is a nihilistic and philosophical novel about adolescence and addiction. Since the time of its publication in book form there has been intense speculation over who wrote it. Many believed that it was Vladimir Nabokov, but he vehemently denied being the author. The real author is thought to be Mark Levi, a Russian émigré, who posted the manuscript to the Parisian journal Numbers in 1934.
Click here to read my review.
Diary of an Oxygen Thief
Diary of an Oxygen Thief is a Dutch novel, published in 2006, professing to be an autobiographical account of an Irish advertising executive living first in London and later in America, where he suffers from culture shock. The book, which was written anonymously, was published in Amsterdam by NLVI. Although Diary of an Oxygen Thief has become extremely popular the identity of its author continues to be a mystery.
O: A Presidential Novel
O: A Presidential Novel is a fictional account about the 2012 U.S. presidential race. Prior to publication, its publisher Simon & Schuster contacted many writers and journalists, requesting that they decline to comment if asked whether they were the anonymous author. The book was purportedly written by someone who ‘has been in the room with Obama’. The individual’s identity remains unknown.