The Australian newspaper has reportedly uncovered another case of an author stretching the truth and passing it off as fact.
The controversy centres around Ishmael Beah’s memoir of his time as a child soldier in Sierra Leone, A Long Way Gone. In the book Beah tells of his years spent fighting in the civil war from the age of 13. Investigations by The Australian alledge that Beah didn’t join the army until he was 15, meaning his account of his time as a refugee and then a solider was actually only 12 months, rather than the 3 years he suggests.
The book has sold more than 650,000 copies to date helped by a Starbucks promotional campaign and has been widely praised.
Beah and his US publisher are standing by the book, with Beah insisting in a letter to the editor of The Australian, "I am right about the dates. This is not something one gets wrong".
The acadamic who helped with the first draft, suggests that any flaws should be put down to poetic license: "If it turns out there are factual errors, I wouldn’t necessarily be all that concerned about it," said Professor Chaon of Ohio’s Oberlin College. "I don’t think the book is being presented as a piece of journalism. It’s being presented as a memoir."