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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Literary Hoaxes

The other day, in a conversation with a friend, I told the story of a student who had delivered an oral book report on an H. G. Wells novel; I believe it was on The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Part way through his plot summary the student mentioned someone using a computer, and that was the final clue that confirmed my suspicion that this student had not read the book but had watched the film version.  When confronted, the student admitted that I was right but wondered how I knew.  I had to tell him that the author was born in 1866 and died in 1946 and that the novel was written towards the end of the 19th century when computers of the type he had described in his report had not been invented. 

My friend called this a book report hoax and that got me thinking about literary hoaxes in general.  The one I remember is that of the Hitler diaries in the early 1980s.  An East German forger faked the diaries and sold them to Stern magazine for about $6.8 million CAD.  Eventually the diaries were acquired by The Sunday Times in Britain and Newsweek in the United States.

By chance, I came across an article about other literary hoaxes:  “11 Legendary Literary Hoaxes:  From Fake Irish Poets to the Genius of J. T. Leroy.”  It makes for interesting reading: