Fake Memoirs

Fake memoirs are all the rage. James Frey was never was alone, and he’s gotten more company recently.

Margaret B. Jones’ Love and Consequences, which was published last week and supposedly described the author’s experiences as a foster child living the gang life in Los Angeles was just revealed to be the work of Margaret Seltzer who was raised by her natural parents in relatively well-off Sherman Oaks.

This on the heals of a much more disturbing revelation: Misha Defonseca’s Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years supposedly written by a Jewish Holocaust survivor who spent the war years wandering through Europe with a pack of wolves was actually written by Monique De Wael a non-Jewish Belgian woman who spent the war years in relative safety (though her parents were, indeed, killed by the Nazis).

Blake Eskin has an excellent article in Slate about why it took so long to refute Defonseca’s story, and Eskin was the right man to write the piece. He wrote a book about Binjamin Wilkomirski’s Fragments, perhaps the most famous fake Holocaust memoir.

Of course, given the phenomenon of Holocaust denial, fake Holocaust memoirs are particularly troubling, as they lend support to the revisionists.

In light of the most recent revelations, the LA Times has published a list of memorable literary hoaxes and, interestingly, it includes another controversial Holocaust book: Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird.

Kosinski, one of the most fascinating literary figures of the second half of the 20th century, actually published The Painted Bird as a novel, but he did imply that it was based on his Holocaust-era experiences.

A few years ago I wrote an article about the strange case of Kosinski’s book:

Grumblings about Kosinski’s strange behavior — including possible sexual misbehavior — and charges of plagiarism had swirled around Kosinski for years, but in 1982, the Village Voice published an expose revealing that The Painted Bird did not authentically reflect Kosinski’s experiences during the war. The Voice also publicized the research of Barbara Tepa, whose doctoral dissertation showed that extensive sections of Kosinski’s work were taken from Polish sources unlikely to be encountered by English-speaking readers. Kosinski was also charged with hiring uncredited editors to write much of his books. Most of these findings were confirmed by James Park Sloan in his 1996 biography of Kosinski, though the writer’s disgrace and despair was by this time long consummated.

Kosinski committed suicide in 1991 at the age of 58.

You can find the rest of the article here.

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