A Hoax’s promotional build-up here has, naturally, focused on some of the real-life autobiographical fakes, such as James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces (2003) picked as an Oprah’s Book Club selection.
That created an impression, in my mind at least, that the fake fact literally tradition – particularly in the misery memoir genre - was a modern phenomenon.
That’s far from the case, as would be writers, like painters, have been fabricating and masquerading lies as truth before the façade of their own talent for decades or even centuries.
The Holocaust was a rich source of this kind of expose and, going back even further, there have been several suspect accounts of evil goings on within religious institutions.
One of the most famous confessions featured a Canadian woman, Maria Monk (1816-1849), who’s Awful Discourses (that’s a short for the long-winded title of the book) were published in 1836.
The book had sold 300, 000 copies by the beginning of the US Civil War, there was a fellow-up, although Monk was comprehensively discredited.
She claimed to have lived in a
convent within an order known as The Black Nuns, where the Brides of Christ were frequently abused and raped by neighbouring priests. Montreal
The work is full of sensational horror stories with references to secret tunnels, nightly orgies and ‘terrible doings,’ culminating in the most terrible acts of brutality.
The worst includes accounts of unwanted bastard babies being born as a result of the unions and then, after being baptized, murdered and thrown into a lime pit.
Fact fakery, horrible accusations, politically motivated exposes and horrific flights of the human imagination, like so many more aspects of the human condition, are not exclusive to the 21st century.
For more on Maria Monk read: