Claire Chazal was a well-known newswoman who presented the evening news on France's TF1 network. Like many French celebrities, she had decided to write a novel. She titled it L'Institutrice
(The Primary School Teacher). It was published in 1997 by Plon and became a bestseller.
In 2000, the editors of Voici
magazine, a weekly tabloid, decided to use her novel to prove that the success of novels by celebrities has little to do with the literary merit of the novels themselves and everything to do with the fame of their authors.
They changed the title of her novel to Maitresse d'Ecole
, altered the names of some of the characters, and changed the two opening sentences. They then submitted the manuscript to numerous publishing houses, claiming it was a work by an unknown author. Every publisher rejected it, including Chazal's own publisher, Plon. To add insult to injury, Plon not only didn't recognize the book, but also suggested that the author should send a self-addressed/stamped envelope if she wanted the manuscript back.
Jacques Colin, editor of Voici
, commented: "publishers open their doors wide to novels by celebrity authors ... which would never have been published if they had been signed by an obscure writer."
Chazal did not comment on the hoax.