Saturday, February 02, 2008



A new entry to add to my Believer article last year on literary namejacking: this time the victim is an Independent of London journalist:
It arrived for me in Beirut under plain cover, a brown envelope containing a small, glossy paperback in Arabic, accompanied by a note from an Egyptian friend. "Robert!" it began. "Did you really write this?"

The front cover bore a photograph of Saddam Hussein in the dock in Baghdad, the left side of his head in colour, the right side bleached out, wearing a black sports jacket but with no tie, holding a Koran in his right hand. "Saddam Hussein," the cover said in huge letters. "From Birth to Martyrdom." And then there was the author's name – in beautiful, calligraphic typeface and in gold in the top, right-hand corner. "By Robert Fisk."....

The difference is that, this time, the "author" decided to actually track his forger down. It's a fascinating read -- I won't give away the ending, but here's a sample:
Only one thing mattered now. Number 45 Al-Batal Ahmed Abdul-Aziz Street, the local Mgboulli bookshop. And there it was, its window packed with paperbacks, the "G" and "U" of Mgboulli having long ago fallen to the pavement.

There was a slim, cigarette-smoking Egyptian in a yellow smoking jacket with black velvet lapels blocking the doorway. "I want to buy a book," I said softly, the winning smile – I'm afraid – of an undercover policeman suffusing my face. There were two tough, beefy men inside, shop assistants as you've never seen them before. I asked for a well-known volume on the life of Saddam Hussein.

"By Robert Fisk?" I was asked.

"Why yes, the very one!"

I followed one of the beefy men upstairs to the "Saddam Hussein biography" section. At which point, he darted back downstairs and retrieved the book from a secret pile behind the counter. "Thirty Egyptian pounds," he said. I paid. Yes, I paid the equivalent of £2.86 for a book with my name on it which I never wrote...

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