Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

Linked in Slate in Reference to Ishmael Beah

It's been a good week for literary fakes, but at the moment I'm going to return to a personal fascination, that of the child soldier, Ishmael Beah. It hasn't yet been proved if he's memoir is fake in relation to dates, or in general, or real, but there's a lengthy article on slate about it, where this blog even gets referenced as an Australian literary blog, and a link.

The link is proved to a post made by Dan Choan, the creative writing teacher of Beah who appeared here after my original post on the subject, claiming to be misquoted and misrepresented in the original article. What none of us ever saw, however, was the counter claim by David Nason, the interviewer, that was supposedly emailed in return:

Nason e-mailed Chaon in response: "Dan, after 30 years in journalism I've been called a liar by all kinds of crooked politicians, corrupt police and shonky businessmen. It goes with the job," he wrote. "I've also been called a liar by people like you -- decent, ordinary folk who say things they later regret when they see the words in print and seek salvation by slagging off the reporter. This unfortunately goes with the job too. But I've never in 30 years had anyone actually make up a transcript like you have and then post it on the web. I know you're a creative writing professor but this really is taking things to extremes. Fortunately, I taped our conversation (something I am permitted to do under New York and Ohio law) so there is absolutely no doubt about the accuracy of my report, the inaccuracy of your comments post publication and the fraudulent (and potentially actionable) nature of your invented transcript."

Now, as I have said, I've never cared if Beah's story turns out to be true or not, and my interest here is purely based on my interest in literary fakes and the sagas around them, but I must admit, there's nothing about the way the publisher and agent of Beah are represented in this article that make me want to believe their side. Perhaps it simply comes down to Sherman's reporting of the story, and his use of quotes, but the Australian journalists are coming across as a lot more calm and rational and assured over the whole thing, while Beah's people, with their anger, their swearing, and claims of righteousness and hints at political reasons for the journalists doing what they want, aren't coming across that well.

Still, makes for interesting reading to me, either way.

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