The big news in the world of hoaxes, revealed last week (and already posted in the forum
), was the revelation that Misha Defonseca's best-selling, non-fiction memoir of growing up in war-torn Europe turns out to be fiction
. (Thanks to everyone who forwarded me links to the news.)
Defonseca's memoir, Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years
(also titled Surviving with Wolves
), describes how when she was a young child her Jewish parents were seized by the Nazis, forcing her to wander Europe alone until she was adopted by a pack of wolves in the Warsaw ghetto.
The reality is that she wasn't actually adopted by wolves. Nor did she wander Europe. She was raised by her grandparents. Nor is she Jewish.
Defonseca offered the well-worn excuse of literary hoaxers: she considers the tale to be true in a metaphorical sense. She says, "This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving." This excuse is used so often that bookstores might soon have to start separating books into a third category: fiction, non-fiction, and non-fiction in a metaphorical sense.
Defonseca's hoax was exposed by Sharon Sergeant, a genealogical researcher, who became suspicious and did some research into Defonseca's past.
This is not the first hoax holocaust memoir. In fact, the holocaust is quite a popular subject for literary hoaxers. Jerzy Kosinski claimed his 1965 work The Painted Bird
was a non-fiction memoir of his childhood experiences during the Holocaust. It's now considered to be fiction.
And in 1993 Helen Demidenko won the Vogel Literary Award for her book The Hand That Signed the Paper
, which described, so she said, her family's experiences in the Ukraine during the Holocaust. Later she admitted that her family never lived in the Ukraine. They were from Britain. And her real name was Darville, not Demidenko.