Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fabricated Memoirs: Even More Fakery

Post-Frey, newspapers take stock of past memoir fakery. Here are some more examples of "non-fiction" works which were were subsequently outed as fakes, with some googled up links for your reading pleasure.

From the Washington Post :
I, Rigoberta MenchĂș: An Indian Woman in Guatemala , a 1984 memoir by a Nobel Prize-winner, is found to recount incidents that she could not have witnessed.

J.T. LeRoy, supposedly a male teenage hustler and the author of Sarah and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things , is revealed as the fictional creation of Laura Albert and her husband, Geoffrey Knoop.

And theBookseller :

Jihad by Tom Carew. In which the author recounted his exploits with the SAS and his time training Afghan rebels. While Carew served in the army, he was providing support to--not actually in--the SAS (although he was SAS trained).

The Cage by Thomas Abraham. Having fought in the Vietnam War, Abraham told how the Viet Cong held him as a PoW. His claims of capture and subsequent escape were disputed by fellow veterans and remained unsubstantiated by military records.

Widower's House by John Bayley. An account of life after the death of his wife Iris Murdoch included the portrayal of two women who chased after him. He later admitted that they were actually composite characters, 'both real and unreal.'

So even a respected literary type like John Bayley (ex-Warton Professor of English at Oxford) mixes a little fiction into his fact!

I had forgotten about an earlier, very famous fakery case. As a teenager I loved this book and the TV series that sprang from it almost enough to forgive Hayley totally:

Roots by Alex Haley. A chronicle of seven generations of Haley's family was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Many of his genealogical claims were shown to be falsified, and he reached an out of court settlement for plagiarism with Harold Courlander, author of The African.

Related Posts:

A Clutch of Bogus Memoirs (6/2/06)
Oprah Chops Frey into a Million little Pieces (28/1/06)


Mei said...

All this just tells me that the line between fiction and reality blurs very easily. :)

__earth said...

As long as it's an enjoyable read, I don't really mind if it's a fiction non-fiction or otherwise.

qaminante said...

I can't really understand why they can't just present it as fiction in the first place (lots of which probably is disguised autobiography anyway). I would have my doubts about parts of "Shantaram" if it had been presented as a memoir, but as it is described as a novel, no-one could really complain about anything that didn't happen quite the way Roberts tells it.
I do remember feeling cheated over Roots, precisely because the fact that it was supposed to be a real story added to its power.

lil ms d said...


i really wrote one hundred years of solitude. really.

bibliobibuli said...

hi mei - very true. and it doesn't bother me unless it's done as a cynical marketing ploy.

_earth - everything is fiction in the end!

qaminante - i guess they present it as memoir simply becasue it's easier to get publsihed and get sales ... i didn't worry too much about roots since i'd loved the film and book so much ... but i might feel differently now ... age brings cynicism

ms d - i don't doubt it for a moment - actually aren't you LIVING 100 Years of Solitude, right now? (oops sorry, bad joke)

ArahMan7 said...

Wow, where have I been? I still remember feeling enchanted over Roots and Kunta Kunte which was shown on TV during that time, especially after knowing their roots were Muslim before they taken as slave.

Eventually I ended buying up a copy of Roots thinking one of these days I gonna write about my roots.

Back to where have I been? No wonder I didn't know about Roots, cos I was kinda lost myself, living in my own dreamed world. I guess, Mat Chendana could verified that somehow.

Unlike MC, I'm way behind most of the time. This is one of the perfect example what I'm talking about? I didn't know Roots was a fiction!

Anyway, see you around. I'm bookmarking this blog as well, lest I missed anything important that I should know, ;-)

Greetings and lots of love from Kuale Kangsor.

~ ArahMan7