Monday, December 14, 2009

Deceit? Or clever writing?

What if you found out that a book you loved was somewhat deceptive? The White Horse, The Yellow Dragon was given a prestigious Czech literary award, and its 19-year-old female author, a member of the Vietnamese community, was praised by readers and lit-types around the world. And, indeed, the international Vietnamese expat community. The book deals with racism and is a commentary on Czech, and Western, society.

But she doesn't exist. She's a male Czech author, Jan Cempirek. He hired two Vietnamese girls to pose as the author; he only communicated with journalists and publishers via email. He turned down invitations to meet politiHe didn't break any rules, really, but he's embarrassed the publisher and confused members of the Czech-Vietnamese community.

Perhaps Cempirek was afraid to publish a book that was critical of Czech society. Or perhaps he knew that this sort of lie would make international news in the book world, resulting in translations and book sales. It's a manipulative, and perhaps brave, way to write. I'm reminded of the James Frey fiasco, and the recent exposure of Belle du Jour's identity. Do you expect honesty from your authors? Are the words enough?

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