The Company She Keeps: Demidenko and Imposture in Autobiography


To combine imposture with autobiography is surely to create an oxymoron. Despite the extravagantly creative strategies that some autobiographers have used (famously, Gertrude Stein writing as Alice B. Toklas, more recently David Eggers playing with every assumption about autobiographical seriousness), readers still engage in le pacte autobiographique, the agreement that Philippe Lejeune outlined in the 1970s, that the author, narrator, and protagonist of the autobiography are one and the same, and that the story purports to be true. This truth claim is most profoundly that which separates autobiography from other forms of literature, even those with elements of autobiography in them, and therefore establishes the terms on which readers approach the text. Deliberate imposture in autobiography is, therefore, outrageous and gives rise to scandal. My questions are very basic: What are the situations that give rise to identity fraud in autobiography? What forms does it take? What purposes does it serve? Why does it matter?

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Published 1 October 2004 in Volume 21 No. 4. Subjects: Australian identity, Autobiographical writing, Cultural & national identity, Imposture, Literary hoaxes.

Cite as: Egan, Susanna. ‘The Company She Keeps: Demidenko and Imposture in Autobiography.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 21, no. 4, 2004, doi: 10.20314/als.387df8b99e.