How Pseudonymous Bosch and Banksy have eluded disclosure
‘Warning: Do not read beyond this page!’ That’s all the text there was on the first page of The Name of this Book is Secret, which launched Hachette’s ‘Secret Series’ in 2007. The story resumed on the second page: “Good. Now I know I can trust you. You’re curious. You’re brave. And you’re not afraid to lead a life of crime.”
The eerily personal voice of Pseudonymous Bosch set the tone for a set of five books without a real author, which closes this year with a DIY mystery called Write this Book. Very little is known about Bosch. He is obviously a fan of Hieronymus Bosch, the pseudonym of the 15th century fantastical-moral artist Joen van Aken. It is generally believed that he dislikes mayonnaise and favours chocolate and cheese, though finer points such as whether white or bitter and Swiss or American remain suitably mysterious.
The children’s writer Pseudonymous Bosch has been accused of being the adult writer Raphael Simon in real life, a charge that the latter has rejected. Though Bosch dedicated his first book to a real schoolgirl, who started him off in writing by acting as his editor, according to a real interview which appeared in Wired a couple of years ago, he has managed to remain a writer of unconfirmed identity for over half a decade. That’s quite an achievement considering his popularity, which almost rivals that of Lemony Snicket (boring real name: Daniel Handler). After the excitement over The Cuckoo’s Calling, we now know how short the life expectancy of pseudonyms has become, so Bosch’s run is extraordinary.
In half a decade away from the public eye, Bosch produced the Secret Series, a pentalogy based on the five senses. It ended in 2011 with the aptly named You Have to Stop This. All the books concern a secret which cannot be told but it must come out since Bosch is no good at keeping secrets. It is never actually revealed, making Bosch a tease of epic proportions. But then, he never leads you on. Rather, he is at pains to repel boarders. For instance, every letter of the first chapter of The Name of this Book is Secret is x, thus: “X xxxx xxxxxxxxx.” That could mean: “I love chocolate.” Or, “A hard flowerpot.” It’s a cipher which can be only partially, statistically decoded by the length of