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7.23.2004

exposed aussies

The fabulous Justine Larbalestier sent me a couple of links to fascinating articles about fakes and fakery in Australian literature. And even if Norma Khouri ain't an Aussie by birth, she wants to be one, so it counts.

Recently, best-selling author Norma Khouri (Forbidden Love) has been exposed as a fraud, though she is still disputing the evidence:

Her tragic story stole readers' hearts and triggered an international outcry. She became a best-selling author in the same league as J.K.Rowling and Michael Moore. She petitioned the United Nations personally, was published in 15 countries, and Australians voted her memoir into their favourite 100 books of all time.

(snip)

With Australian sales approaching 200,000, the book told of her lifelong friendship with a girl named Dalia in Amman, Jordan. In their 20s, Khouri wrote, she and Dalia started a hairdressing salon together. Dalia met and fell in love with Michael, a Christian army officer. When their chaste affair was discovered, Dalia was murdered - stabbed 12 times - by her father. Norma fled Jordan to Athens, where she said she wrote her book in internet cafes, and ultimately to Australia, where her publisher Random House sponsored her for a temporary residence visa.


But, the piece continues:

The truth is very different, and may affect Khouri's legal residency status in Australia.

Khouri's real name is Norma Majid Khouri Michael Al-Bagain Toliopoulos, and she only lived in Jordan until she was three years old. She has a US passport and lived from 1973 until 2000 in Chicago. She is married with two children, 13 and 11. She has four American siblings and a mother who are desperate to hear news from her. But she has managed to conceal this double life from her publishers, her agent, lawyers in several continents, the Australian Department of Immigration and, until now, the public.

Her mother, Asma, remembers her estranged daughter as a girl who "kept deep secrets". Norma's privacy has a reason: not to protect her safety, but to guard her secrets.

Khouri's hoax will take its place in a long Australian tradition of literary fraud, from Ern Malley to Helen Darville-Demidenko. But no other fraudulent book has had such wide sales or impact, and in Darville's case the deception only involved her persona, not her book. Khouri has misled the world both on the page and in person.


The lengths to which Khouri has gone to preserve the lie, even after she's caught seemingly red-faced, are something else. A good liar has to know when to give up the ghost.

Asked how she coped with living secretly, Khouri once said: "It is very stressful and tiring, and I would not recommend it to anyone."

But you have to admire the moxie (at least a little) of someone that would actually say that on the record about their history while lying the whole time.

The other piece is older and examines 2003's most notable Aussie books, which mostly revolved around fact versus fiction or variations on the theme. (Including My Life as a Fake by Peter Carey.)

Are we to take a lesson about the Aussie character here? Are they extraordinarily good liars or bad? Or are they just more interesting liars? (Running away now...)

worm "Rain Falls For Wind," The Sleepy Jackson

namecheck Justine "Well?" Larbalestier

4 Comments:

  • At 10:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Yes.

    Justine

     
  • At 12:24 PM , Blogger gwenda said...

    I knew it!

     
  • At 6:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hopefully Norma will be sent packing home to the US family and authorities. She just aint fair dinkum!

     
  • At 6:54 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hopefully Norma will be sent packing home to the US family and authorities. She just aint fair dinkum!

     

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