Review of Faking Literature, by K.K. Ruthven.

'Pleasure in the spurious helps perpetuate it' (89), writes K.K. Ruthven, author of Faking Literature. And he is right. Indeed, the argument that Ruthven makes about literary hoaxes applies to his own book: in the process of demonstrating that literary forgery is a 'critique of the twin institutions of Iiterature and Iiterary criticism' (I 95), Ruthven offers some very engaging accounts of literary hoaxes, plagiarism, imposture, and forgery. The problem is that by yoking together perpetrators of so many kinds of authorial misrepresentation under the rubric of literary forgery, Ruthven undermines his central argument that literary forgeries constitute an important mode of cultural critique. By way of example, readers familiar with Ern Malley and Helen Demidenko will know that one name signals a hoax designed to 'destabilise the fragile economy of literary accreditation' (4), but the other recalls a very different kind of authorial misnaming, one which inadvertently revealed something about the reception of ethnic writing in Australia in the mid I990s. Put differently, the news that Helen Demidenko, the author of an ostensibly semi-autobiographical account of the Ukrainian collaboration with Nazis during World War II, was really Helen Darville, an Australian of British descent, provided scores ofjournalists, scholars, and media pundits with the opportunity to mount 'a powerful indictment of such cultural practices as literary reviewing and the awarding of literary prizes' (4), but Darville/Demidenko should not be credited with engineering this critique. And by contending that ' literary forgery is criticism by other means' (I 71) Ruthven disregards the important cultural work that is being done by scholars- like him! - who produce the criticism he indiscriminately attributes to. literary forgeries.

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Published 1 October 2002 in Volume 20 No. 4. Subjects: Literary hoaxes.

Cite as: Dawson, Carrie. ‘Review of Faking Literature, by K.K. Ruthven..’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 20, no. 4, 2002, doi: 10.20314/als.5b8ecc36b7.