The latest in a list of memoirs to be questioned for their factual accuracy is a book that left a deep impression on me when I read it last year is Ishmael Beah's account of his life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone, A Long Way Gone.
A West Australian couple discovered a discrepancy in the dates in Beah's book who were posted to the mine where Beah's father used to work, the Australian reports. Villagers say that the events in the book took place two years later than they were described in the book, and aid workers agree, which would mean that Beah was a soldier for three months rather than two years.
It might go some way towards accounting for why this portion of the book - clearly the most harrowing part - is not dwelt on at greater length - although I personally interpreted this as being because the material was too painful for Beah to revisit at any length.
Beah and his publisher are standing by the book.
If it turns out that the dates are wrong does it terribly matter? Accuracy is extremely important, but for me, none of this detracts from the book which is incredibly powerful and moving, and offers a unique insight into what these children go through.
Do authors always get their dates right in autobiographies anyway? When Rob was here, we discovered a discrepancy in the dates that Anthony Burgess says that he was teaching in Kuala Kangsar in Little Wilson and Big God (he was still there in Malay College in 1956 as the boys who were there then clearly remember). This means that Burgess' biographers Roger Lewis and Andrew Biswell also got their dates wrong. It strikes me as odd they didn't check!