Literary forgery
Literary forgery refers to writing
Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols . It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.Writing most likely...

, such as a manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

 or a literary work either deliberately misattributed to a historical or invented author, or a purported memoir
A memoir , is a literary genre, forming a subclass of autobiography – although the terms 'memoir' and 'autobiography' are almost interchangeable. Memoir is autobiographical writing, but not all autobiographical writing follows the criteria for memoir set out below...

 presented as genuine.


The common, or popularly known, instance of literary forgery
Forgery is the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents with the intent to deceive. Copies, studio replicas, and reproductions are not considered forgeries, though they may later become forgeries through knowing and willful misrepresentations. Forging money or...

 may involve for example the work of a famous author whose writings have an established intrinsic, as well as monetary, value. In the attempt to gain the rewards of such a reputation, the forger often engages in two distinct activities. The forger must produce a writing which resembles the style
Style (fiction)
In fiction, style is the manner in which the author tells the story. Along with plot, character, theme, and setting, style is considered one of the fundamental components of fiction.-Fiction-writing modes:...

 of the known reputable author to whom the fake is to be attributed. However, that is not necessarily sufficient. The forger also may or may not fake the physical alleged original manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

. This is rare, as it requires a great deal of technical effort: this is often done by imitating the ink and paper, and other materials if possible. The effect is in the physical result; the forger can thereby say not just that the style of writing is the same, but also that ink and paper is of the kind or type used by the famous author. Other common types of literary forgery may be based on potential historical cachet and novelty of a previously undiscovered author.

Literary forgery has long history: Onomacritus
Onomacritus , also known as Onomacritos or Onomakritos, was a Greek chresmologue, or compiler of oracles, who lived at the court of the tyrant Pisistratus in Athens...

 (c. 530 - 480 BCE) is among the most ancient known literary forgers. One of the longest lasting literary forgeries is by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, also known as Pseudo-Denys, was a Christian theologian and philosopher of the late 5th to early 6th century, the author of the Corpus Areopagiticum . The author is identified as "Dionysos" in the corpus, which later incorrectly came to be attributed to Dionysius...

 a 5-6th century Syrian mystical writer who claimed to be a disciple of Paul the Apostle. Five hundred years later Abelard expressed doubts about the authorship, but it was not until after the Renaissance that there was general agreement that the attribution of the work was false. In the intervening thousand years the writings had much theological influence.

Literary forgery was promoted as a creative method by Charles Nodier
Charles Nodier
Jean Charles Emmanuel Nodier , was a French author who introduced a younger generation of Romanticists to the conte fantastique, gothic literature, vampire tales, and the importance of dreams as part of literary creation, and whose career as a librarian is often underestimated by literary...

, and in the 19th century many writers produced literary forgeries under his influence, notably Prosper Merimee
Prosper Mérimée
Prosper Mérimée was a French dramatist, historian, archaeologist, and short story writer. He is perhaps best known for his novella Carmen, which became the basis of Bizet's opera Carmen.-Life:...

 and Pierre Louys
Pierre Louÿs
Pierre Louÿs was a French poet and writer, most renowned for lesbian and classical themes in some of his writings. He is known as a writer who "expressed pagan sensuality with stylistic perfection."-Life:...


The English Mercurie
The English Mercurie
The English Mercurie is a literary hoax purporting to be the first English newspaper. It is apparently an account of the English battle with the Spanish Armada of 1588, but was in fact written by the second Earl of Hardwicke, Philip Yorke, in the 18th century as a literary game with some friends...

 appeared to be the first English newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 when it was discovered in 1794 - an account of the English battle with the Spanish Armada
Spanish Armada
This article refers to the Battle of Gravelines, for the modern navy of Spain, see Spanish NavyThe Spanish Armada was the Spanish fleet that sailed against England under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1588, with the intention of overthrowing Elizabeth I of England to stop English...

 of 1588, but was in fact written by the second Earl of Hardwicke
Earl of Hardwicke
Earl of Hardwicke is a title in the Peerage of Great Britain. It was created in 1754 for Philip Yorke, 1st Baron Hardwicke, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain from 1737 to 1756. He had already been created Baron Hardwicke, of Hardwicke in the County of Gloucester, in 1733, and was made Viscount...

, Philip Yorke, in the 18th century as a literary game with some friends.

Misery lit

The genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 of false and deceptive autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 or fake memoirs
Fake memoirs
Fake memoirs form a category of literary forgery in which a wholly or partially fabricated autobiography, memoir or journal of an individual is presented as fact. Often, the purported author of the work also is fabricated...

 has seen the rise of misery lit
Misery lit
Misery lit is a term ostensibly coined by The Bookseller magazine that describes a genre of biographical literature mostly concerned with the protagonist's triumph over personal trauma or abuse, often during childhood...

 books, where the author has claims having suffered illness, abuse, drugs and so on during their upbringing. A recent example is a story about Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

 where a young girl was raised in a gangland culture involving drugs, forced sex and criminality. The author, Margaret Seltzer
Margaret Seltzer
Margaret Seltzer is an American writer. Her first book, Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival , about her alleged experiences growing up as a half white, half Native American foster child and Bloods gang member in South Central Los Angeles, was proven to be fictitious...

 has been exposed as a fraud by her elder sister. In fact she lives a middle-class life without trauma, and received a good education (which also included a course in creative writing
Creative writing
Creative writing is considered to be any writing, fiction, poetry, or non-fiction, that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, and technical forms of literature. Works which fall into this category include novels, epics, short stories, and poems...

). Penguin Riverside has withdrawn the book and canceled a book tour.

External links

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