One wonders if maybe it would be in Oprah’s best interest to invest in her own memoir research department. Angel at the Fence the Holocaust memoir championed by Oprah and strongly defended by its publisher and agent has been canceled after the author admitted he’d lied about parts of his story.
In the memoir the author claimed he had met his wife of 50 years while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, corresponding with her through the fence of the camp, only to reconnect with her some years later on a blind date. The claim was disputed by a number of Holocaust historians who said it would have been an impossibility “pointing out that, among other things, the layout of the camp would have prevented the pair from meeting at a fence.” Over the weekend the author, Herman Rosenblat, admitted he had fabricated the love story and the publisher Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin, canceled the book, due to be published in February.
No one at Berkley questioned the central truth of Mr. Rosenblat’s story until last week, said Andrea Hurst, his agent. Neither Leslie Gelbman, president and publisher of Berkley, nor Natalee Rosenstein, Mr. Rosenblat’s editor at Berkley, returned calls or e-mail messages seeking comment. Craig Burke, director of publicity for Berkley, declined to elaborate beyond the company’s brief statement announcing the cancellation of the book. In an e-mail message, a spokesman for Ms. Winfrey also declined to comment.
In a telephone interview Sunday, Ms. Hurst, who sold the book to Berkley for less than $50,000, said she always believed the essential truth of Mr. Rosenblat’s tale until last week. “I believed the teller,” Ms. Hurst said. “He was in so many magazines and books and on Oprah. It did not seem like it would not be true.” On Sunday, Ms. Hurst said that she was reviewing her legal options because “I’ve yet to see what kind of repercussions could come from this, and I was lied to.”
Despite all this, and considering a movie is still in the works based on the book and that the book was scheduled to be published in February, one wonders whether the “memoir” will still see bookstore shelves in some manner. Considering how badly the industry is struggling and how much publicity this title has incurred it’s not hard to imagine someone repackaging it with some sort of author’s note, and directing it to the fiction section.