09 July 9:17 am


Rick Viede writes about the literary hoaxes that inspired his play A Hoax, opening at Griffin in July.  Hoax number #2 is Wanda Koolmatrie’s My Own Sweet Time (1994)…

In 1994, Wanda Koolmatrie’s My Own Sweet Time was published by the Aboriginal publishing house Magabala Books. The memoir told of Koolmatrie, born in 1949 to the Pitjantjatara people in South Australia, taken from her mother in 1950, raised by white foster parents, and later involved in rock and roll bands and inner city Sydney theatre groups. In 1996, the author received the $5,000 Dobbie Literary Award for women writers of a first published book classifiable as ‘life writing’. The book was used in the 1996 New South Wales HSC English exam. In a review, Dorothy Hewett said that “this heartening comic odyssey cries out for a sequel. It could be the start of a new genre”.

Koolmatrie offered Magabala a sequel in 1997. The publishers asked to meet her to discuss the new book. In March 1997, Leon Carmen admitted that he was the real author. Carmen was a 47-year-old white male taxi driver who had failed to get his previous books published. The front page headline on Sydney’s Daily Telegraph read “Great White Hoax”. Carmen was widely condemned, but claimed as justification that that the publication of the book demonstrated that a white man could not get published as easily as a ‘minority author’ or a woman. Carmen returned his prize money for the Dobbie Award and My Own Sweet Time was removed from sales.

In 2004, John Bayley, who had posed as Wanda Koolmatrie’s literary agent, published Daylight Corroboree, his account of the hoax and its aftermath.

A Hoax season: 20 July – 1 September
For tickets and more information click here.

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