Saturday, May 13, 2006


Turns Out All That Lying Was Good Practice

Australia's ABC Radio National news recently caught up with Helen Dale, the woman behind one of the great literary scandals of the 1990s. As her interviewer summarizes:

At the age of 20, under the name of Helen Demidenko, she wrote the novel The Hand That Signed the Paper. Appearing to be autobiographical, the novel tells the grim tale of her father and uncle, Ukrainian peasants who witnessed the destruction of their home and family under Stalin's communists.They then joined the SS death squads during the Holocaust, in order to take revenge against the Jews, who they perceived to be their persecutors. It's an attempt to enter the minds of genocidal murderers.

In order to write the book, Helen Darville, as she was then, took on the identity of Helen Demidenko, the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants. In public, she wore Ukrainian folk costumes and alluded to a background of heavy vodka-drinking; reinforcing her ethnic identity.

Her book was extremely successful. To her own surprise, it won three literary awards, including the esteemed Miles Franklin award in 1995. But then all hell broke loose. Her true identity was revealed; Helen Darville, of distinctly British origins. She was exposed as a fraud.

Not noted in the interview is that, in addition to being exposed as a fraud, in 1997 she got booted from the Brisbane Courier-Mail for plagiarism.

What's she up to these days? Well...

Lynne Malcolm: So now you're Helen Dale. Are you Helen Dale through marriage? So who's Helen Dale?

Helen Dale: Oh, well Helen Dale's a country lawyer. Yes, and it's much easier to be a country lawyer, I can tell you now, than always playing this silly bloody arts game, I can tell you now.

Viswanathan and James, there's a future for you... in law school!

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?