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Khan was encouraged to publish. Forward hoped that Virago would back out when he refused to meet them. She was supposed to promote the book, give a radio talk, write an article for the Guardian. Forward confessed to his agent, who told Virago, who removed the books from sale and pulped them, furious. Forward had a very bad time.

If the caller seemed polite, Wagstaff would fetch the reverend. Critics said that Forward had stolen an opportunity from a real Asian woman. He was writing about being an outsider, a feeling he knew well from his own poor background. Yet sometimes it matters a great deal. A novel about the Holocaust such as The Painted Bird feels different if you know that it was written by a survivor — Jerzy Kosinski. It matters that Kosinski secretly used the experiences of others, and that Grass was hiding his own past membership of the Waffen-SS. While researching this article, I counted 21 successful memoirists whose books were exposed as substantially false or exaggerated in the past 30 years.

This does not include forgers or plagiarists, or writers of dishonest journalism, such as Jonah Lehrer or Johann Hari. Michelle Smith released a memoir of satanic abuse called Michelle Remembers in Holocaust survival is a sadly common fantasy. Untrue or exaggerated Holocaust memoirs have been written by Binjamin Wilkomirski in the s , by Misha Defonseca , who included the claim that she was raised by wolves, by Herman Rosenblat exposed before publication in , and by Enric Marco When Oprah Winfrey famously reprimanded Frey in , she had already interviewed Smith and Stratford on her show.

Like Mallory, some literary fakers had mental health problems. Some look back with deep remorse.

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Tim Barrus, who pretended to be a Navajo writer called Nasdijj, will only talk to me by email. If we want to know why people keep doing this, we should ask why we keep believing them. This collection of cases offers an answer. Almost every one claimed to experience more obvious hardship and disadvantage than they really did. We forget that it is also the least likely route for a triumph to take.

There would be no successful fantasists if there were no audience for stories that are too good to check. Or she was sickened from having drunk the filthy tsunami water. Or she was freezing cold. Whether or not that is true, no search parties went out the morning after the tsunami as they did farther up the coast; the rescue workers were also forced to evacuate. When she was finally found, on April 17th, her corpse was unrecognisable.

An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography

Like many others from Ukedo, it was quickly burnt and could only be identified by DNA testing. These days, you find Kanouya-san, now 73, living alone on the outskirts of Fukushima City, capital of the eponymously named prefecture. His new home is about 50 miles north-west of Ukedo, across a high mountain range, and he rarely goes back. He lives in a prefabricated, box-like temporary housing complex. During my last visit, in February, an icy wind blowing from Siberia was making the snow billow up against the door of his home.

As usual, he greeted us gruffly. No small talk. Even as I struggled to unlace my boots at the door, he turned his back on me and went into his living room. To one side of him is a photograph showing him as a roguish-looking man in the s, with a brown leather jacket and a cap worn at a tilt like Robert Redford in "The Sting". Next to him is Hisako, wearing jeans and with a round, smiling face. Sometimes I have remarked on what a playboy he looks in the photo. He smiles mischievously, as if to acknowledge that, back then, he did indeed have the pick of all the girls.

It shows her on her own, austerely dressed in a dark robe, with her hair swept back. Beside it are candles, sticks of incense and flowers, as well as oranges and biscuits that Kanouya-san offers every day as he prays to her. Among them is a small urn with her ashes inside. Hisako is now a spirit, and when he kneels at her shrine, he rings a small bell, lights a stick of incense, and bows his head solemnly. I beg for her forgiveness. And I say to her, when the time comes and I meet her again, please be in my life. I first heard about Hisako last year in a crowded conference hall near Fukushima City, when Kanouya-san, dressed in a suit and tie, told her story to a panel of investigators charged by the Diet, or parliament, with drawing up lessons from the Fukushima disaster.

It was a chance for the commission to listen for the first time to representatives of the 88, people who had been evacuated from their homes within the 20km radius of the nuclear-power plant. Most of the local officials who addressed the meeting told harrowing stories of the chaos, fear and information vacuum as they followed orders to evacuate their villages — and then moved to areas where the radiation was even more dangerous.

Kanouya-san told a more personal story, with such a poignant sense of both anger and futility in his voice that it reminded me just how incomprehensible the events of that tragic time were. As if to underline the point, a man in the audience stood up early in the hearing and began to groan.

It was such a loud, incongruous noise, I thought at first it was a glitch in the sound system. But then I saw him ambling from one end of the conference room to the other, sounding like a gored bull. Stunned by this raw display of emotion, a veteran Japanese journalist, sitting next to me, leaned across and whispered in English, "This cannot be Japan. Endure is what most of the , north-easterners still uprooted by the disaster have done for the past two years.

They have suffered in silence. Despite the seething frustration, there are no unified voices urging the government to speed up its reconstruction efforts, or come up with new sources of employment in the stricken areas. Meanwhile, instead of offering solidarity, much of the rest of the country, after an initial outpouring of sympathy, treats the whole thing like a national embarrassment.

In Fukushima, those driven from their homes by radiation are quietly stigmatised. If they are at school, there are taunts in the playground; if they are looking for love, potential partners shun them. Supermarket shoppers elsewhere in Japan surreptitiously steer their trolleys away from produce grown near Fukushima. The Diet Commission report into the nuclear accident, an exemplary document that catalogued a chain reaction of human and systemic error, has been left to gather dust in parliament.

Perhaps its conclusion was too challenging. The chairman, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, described the crisis as "made in Japan".

Delius the Yorkshireman

Its root cause, he said, was the "reflexive obedience, reluctance to question authority, devotion to 'sticking with the programme', groupism and insularity" of the nation at large. Although the report criticised the government and Tepco for failing to foresee or prevent the crisis, it put the national psyche in the dock. A nation tinged by guilt prefers to turn away. Those same traits probably explain why the disaster-stricken communities do not make more of a fuss. But, in isolated cases, some of the anguish-ridden people of Fukushima are taking a stand — and in the process making brave efforts to keep their shattered communities together.

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Kanouya-san leads one such group, which brings together families, many from Ukedo, who lost loved ones in the disaster. What is extraordinary is the nature of their action. They have lost homes, land and livelihood. Their children or grandchildren have been thrown into new schools, far away from old friends.

They have been uprooted from the balmy seaside to bitterly cold mountain towns where snow piles up in winter outside their tiny prefab homes. Many children are still living in areas where the levels of radiation are so high that their time playing outdoors is rationed, and they cannot roll around in the grass. It shows just how deeply respect for culture, tradition and the aged still runs through Japanese communities, especially in rural farming areas like Fukushima. It is a fight for dignity, one of the few things left for people who have lost everything else. Kanouya-san has gone to battle with Tepco at the head of families.

At first glance it seems like a quixotic venture.

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Tepco would already probably be bankrupt were it not for effective nationalisation by the government. Though they were victims of the tsunami, not of radiation, their relatives argue that some of them might have been rescued had it not been for the nuclear accident. More incontrovertibly, their right to a decent burial was violated after their deaths, the plaintiffs say. Because of the radiation plume, there were no search parties sent out to find their corpses. That meant the bodies were left to rot in the fields for weeks. Sitting in a leather-backed chair in his office in Fukushima City, he acknowledges that it is an unprecedented case.

But he says it is not blood money the bereaved are after. They are pressing Tepco to show sincere sorrow for the anguish it caused their loved ones at the time of death — and afterwards. Under Japanese law, the only way to measure the weight of that sincerity is through money. In some of the testimonies recited by the bereaved at a hearing with Tepco in February, the pain almost burst out. There was a lot of guilt: family members had been hurriedly evacuated, believing their lost loved ones were in other temporary shelters and would be moved out separately.

It was only later they found them to be missing, and by then it was too late to search. There was the helpless anguish, lasting more than a month, of wondering whether the bodies would be found. When they were, there was horror at the general state of decomposition. Kanno explains that in Buddhist burial rites the usual practice is to make up the face of the corpse and put on clothes, to make them look serene before incineration.

Many of the testimonies note how sad the family members are not to have been able to dress and make up their loved ones. But until her ashes are buried, he believes her spirit lives in restless limbo, somewhere between this world and the next. That sealed-off burial ground lies on the edge of Ukedo, a jumble of marble and stone headstones toppled by the tsunami like dominoes. My guide, who had been brought up in the village, led me to the tomb that he had built with his own hands before the tsunami for his father, who had died previously. He showed me an empty casket. We found the russet-coloured marble lid of the grave a hundred metres away in a rice field, upside down in the mud, an ant tracing its way from one side to the other.

One of his strongest demands is that the graveyard be moved to a more accessible place, so that once again the people of Ukedo can honour and tend to their spirits. He had been startled by how long they would carry on talking with the spirits, even in the blazing summer heat. As I picked my way later that day through the village of Ukedo, I was able to trace the memories of some of the people who had died near there in the tsunami.

Often their deaths showed how the seam of stoicism that marks the people of Fukushima endured to the end. Their stories also showed the reality of village life — of jealousies and spite, as well as harmony and uniformity. One lady, married to a cranky old asthma sufferer, had been cruelly mistreated by him and his mother throughout their married life. When the mother-in-law died, her friends urged her to leave him. But she stood by him even as the tsunami crashed over the house, listening to his stubborn insistence that he would not budge.

She died by his side. The village priest was another victim, as were his wife, daughter and son-in-law. His family had been in a feud with some members of the village over the upkeep of the village shrine and the cost of the annual pageants. When his surviving daughter took the courageous step of volunteering to take his place after his death, the old guard of the village vetoed her.

A small temporary shrine now sits on the site of the magnificent old one, which was rendered unrecognisable by the tsunami. Its care has been outsourced to a priest in a village 30 miles away. Perhaps the most poignant memories are those of a year-old girl, Wakana Yokoyama, who lived so close to the sea that crabs would scuttle through her garden. Her favourite toys were the desiccated starfish thrown away by fishermen, which she would toss across the beach like a frisbee.

Fish and shellfish were always on the table. As far as Wakana can remember, her family never paid for a fish during her whole life in Ukedo. Like Hisako, their bodies were left abandoned and unclaimed for weeks.

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Abandonment haunts the land around Ukedo. It haunts the area around the nuclear-power plant. It haunts much of Fukushima itself. You do not need to have a vivid imagination to feel that the disaster has left a ghostly tinge across the area. Radiation itself is like a ghost — invisible, intangible, but clinging to everything it touches. Ukedo was almost entirely razed by the tsunami, but the towns farther inland still stand.

It is striking how large they are. Tomioka, to the south, had a population of 16, The entire no-go zone is an area almost as large as the Yorkshire Dales.