Suspend Your Disbelief

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publishing fiction as fiction

I swore I wasn’t even going to blog about the whole Angel at the Fence debacle, but then I saw this: that York House Press hopes to publish this so-called “fake memoir” by a Holocaust survivor as a work of fiction; this book certainly contains some fictional (or, it could be argued, mis-remembered) details–including the one its title refers to–but author Herman Rosenblat really is a death camp survivor, and he hardly deserves to be viciously attacked as the next Margaret B. Jones. Here’s the publisher’s official statement, which defends, quite convincingly and movingly, their decision to publish the book as a novel; the working title is Flower at the Fence.
An excerpt:

After reading Mr. Rosenblat’s memoir, Angel at The Fence, we find it unfortunate that Mr. Rosenblat integrated false memories, and in so doing, drew savage criticism of what is otherwise a credible, heart-wrenching, and no doubt, verifiable account of his time as a young boy in the death camps of Germany and the horrors he experienced there.

We understand the dismay at this event of Holocaust historians who work tirelessly to assert the facts of the Holocaust and who must ensure the integrity of unimpeachable survivor accounts as a way to counter anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers of which there are still far too many.

Mr. Rosenblat, now age 80, fantasized that his wife of 50 years came as a girl to nourish him by tossing apples to him over the barbed wire at a sub camp of the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp. This is a story he told himself and others repeatedly until it was integrated seamlessly into his otherwise factual account. It is beyond our expertise to know how Holocaust survivors cope with their trauma. Do they deny, try to forget, rationalize or fantasize and promote fiction along with truth? Perhaps the coping mechanisms are as individual as the survivors themselves. Would, for humanity’s sake, that Mr. Rosenblat’s fantasy were true and that not just one girl, but a whole crowd, had come to toss apples over the fence, to tear it down and to liberate those within much sooner than was actually the case.

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