Parents taken by Nazis, she sets out to find them at age 6, is adopted by wolves, wait a minute…. NONFICTION? She’s not Jewish either. I often wonder why people just don’t write novels and not worry about getting caught later down the line.
Misha Defonseca, the author of a fake memoir about how she was raised by wolves during the second world war, has been ordered to pay $22.5m (£13.3m) back to her publisher.
Defonseca’s extraordinary story was published almost 20 years ago as Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years. The book describes how, when she was six, the author’s Jewish parents were taken from their home by the Nazis, and how she set off across Belgium, Germany and Poland to find them on foot, living on stolen scraps of food until she was adopted by a pack of wolves. She also claimed to have shot a Nazi soldier in self-defence.
The story was a huge bestseller, and was made into a film in France, but in 2008, it was found to be fabricated. The author – whose real name was found to be Monique De Wael – said that “it’s not the true reality, but it is my reality”, and “there are times when I find it difficult to differentiate between reality and my inner world”.
Now a judge has ruled that despite the author’s claims that she believed her story to be true during the publication process, she will have to pay back the money she was awarded, which amounts to $22.5m.
The ruse unravelled after the publisher lost a lawsuit to her and her ghostwriter for “highly improper representations and activities,” related to publishing, marketing and distribution of the memoir. The publishers representative then pursued the truth of the matter. If this fabrication had been brought up during the original trial, the judge noted, it would have made a difference in the judgement. So, she loses the money. Oops. Fake stories come back to bite.