The literary world has been talking about a work of fiction that managed a brief masquerade as nonfiction. The book is An Incomplete History of the Art of the Funerary Violin
, by Rohan Kriwaczek. As the title suggests, it tells the history of that popular genre of music, funerary violin music. The Guardian reports
By the early 19th century, the book says, virtually every town had its own funerary violinist, but the tradition was almost wiped out in the Great Funerary Purges of the 1830s and 40s. The author, Rohan Kriwaczek, describes himself on a site on Myspace.com as being the president of the guild that represents a dwindling band of musicians dedicated to this largely forgotten art-form. But all references to the guild lead back to Kriwaczek, and several experts on the history of the violin say they have never heard of him or the tradition.
The book will be published next month by Duckworth Publishers in Britain, and Overlook Press in America. The publisher claims that it believed the book to be a work of genuine nonfiction. Or rather, it didn't care too much whether it was fiction or nonfiction because it thought the book was interesting. The hoax was "exposed" by a book-buyer in Iowa City who saw the book described in Overlook's catalog, thought it looked fishy, and brought it to the attention of David Schoenbaum, an expert in the history of the violin and also a reviewer for the New York Times. The Times then revealed the hoax.
Personally I'm thinking the publisher probably had a hand in the exposure of the hoax. What better publicity could a book get than to be "exposed" by the Times right before its debut?