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READ PDF ì The Ern Malley Affair ì In October , The Young And Successful Australian Literary Editor, Max Harris, Received A Package Of Poems By A Recently Deceased Poet, Ern Malley, Forwarded To Him By His Sister EthelConvinced He Had Hit Upon The Work Of A Modernist Genius, A Poet Of Whom Australia Could Be Proud, Harris Published Malley S Poems In His Magazine, Angry Penguins With Copies Despatched Around The World And Grand Claims Surrounding Publication, Harris Had No Idea Of The Events That Lay In Store The Consequences Of Which Would Haunt The Literary Landscape For GenerationsMichael Heyward S Compelling Account Of Perhaps The Most Famous Literary Hoax Of The Twentieth Century Reproduces In Their Entirety, The Seventeen Poems Published As The Darkening Ecliptic In The Magazine, Angry Penguins As Michael Heyward Explains In His Exceptional Book The Ern Malley Affair Dramatises, Luridly Than Any Other Literary Episode, The Question Which Is In The Minds Of The Audience Of Any Work Of Modern Art The Question Of Whether What They Re Being Invited To Admire Is, In Fact, In Some Sense, Fake John Lanchester, Guardian A Thoroughly Researched Narrative Of The Whole Saga Tells The Story Very Well Indeed, With Wit And Style Ian Hamilton, Times Literary Supplement Even if you re not interested in poetry, this is a gripping read The true story of how a young Adelaide cultural magazine editor Max Harris was duped into believing that the work of a totally fictitious, supposedly recently dead poet was of great literary value It reads almost like a detective novel, and descends into tragedy when the young editor then becomes the victim of a witch hunt, and dragged through the courts on charges of indecency A well researched, well written and well presented book.And if you are interested in poetry, it should be top of your reading list. The most famous Australian poet, leaving aside the Banjos and Lawson, is Ern Malley, but Ern Malley never existed This is the kind of thing that could only happen in Australia everywhere has its literary hoaxes, but usually the hoax isn t better than the real work of the hoaxers or the real work of the hoaxed Heyward does a great job telling the story, though the legal wranglings at the end of the book takeaway forties Australia was a horrible time and place are much less fun than the development of the hoax and his description of the personalities involved Cliche alert it reads like a thriller Or so I imagine, since I haven t read a thriller for some time Anyway, I couldn t put it down The book lacks one thing a real engagement with the intellectual and artistic problems a successful hoax creates The editor who accepted the Malley poems argued that the hoaxers, freed from the constraints under which they usually wrote, wrote better than they could have done otherwise in other words, standard mid century surrealist psychoanalytic nonsense Heyward suggests that the strange quality of the Malley poems is caused by the fact that there was no single Malley that there are so many different Malleys, in other words, standard late century postmodern nonsense I think the real issue we have to face is what sort of a literary movement would not be subject to hoaxes like this The neo classicists were fooled by Ossian, the Romantics fooled by almost everything, and so on There was never a literature that could not be parodied with great success But modernism was and is easily open to it, simply because there are no rules for success in modernist art This is a problem we re still dealing with Some people try to impose rigid rules James Wood , some people revel thoughtlessly in their absence, and the best authors, I suspect, are the ones who can really work through the incredibly strange situation of a high art form that lacks established criteria I certainly haven t done so. This is a true story, and an amazing one The Ern Malley affair was a famous literary hoax in 1940s Australia without doubt, the greatest literary hoax of all time It began when Max Harris, young editor of the Adelaide based avant garde magazine Angry Penguins, received a package from a certain Ethel Malley, containing The Darkening Ecliptic, a manuscript of surrealistic poems by her brother Ern, a Melbourne garage mechanic, who had died recently at the age of twenty five Did Harris think they were any good Did he ever Harris at once pronounced Malley a genius, and a lavish special commemorative issue of Angry Penguins was devoted to Ern s poems Then the truth came out There was no Ern, and no Ethel either Ern s works of genius had been cobbled together in an afternoon by two traditionalist poets, James McAuley and Harold Stewart, in an attempt to discredit the avant garde Up to a point, they did Max Harris was certainly never the same again, especially after the South Australian authorities decided that the Malley poems were obscene and dragged the young publisher through a public trial The one time enfant terrible of the University of Adelaide ended his days not as the great novelist, poet, or even literary editor he had imagined he would be, but as a canting, boorish newspaper columnist, churning out opinion pieces for Rupert Murdoch Meanwhile, hoaxer in chief James McAuley, following his youthful jape, became an arch conservative, founding the right wing Australian journal Quadrant, while Stewart, ever the interesting of the two, moved to Japan where he became a devotee of Zen and made collages Interviewed in later years, Stewart never wanted to talk about the Malley business, and said that his old life in Australia all seemed like a dream But the Malley story was far from over If Ern s fame as a great poet had been brief, his fame as a hoax kept on growing, and has not abated to this day The Malley poems confront us with crucial literary questions With Malley, we are by no means a world away from exquisite corpse poems, from The Waste Land that great modernist echo chamber of allusions , from the cut ups and fold ins of Brion Gysin and William Burroughs, from the whole panoply of surrealist techniques When David Bowie glues together random strips of words to write his lyrics Serious moonlight, indeed as a friend of mine once exclaimed , he is very much in the tradition of Ern Are these techniques all to be condemned And how much, in the end, does authorial intention matter, as opposed to the words on the page There are lines in The Darkening Ecliptic that are better haunting, simply memorable than almost anything in real Australian poetry Rise from the wrist, o kestrel Mind, to a clear expanse My blood becomes a Damaged Man Most like your Albion from a poem addressed to William Blake Princess, you lived in Princess St., Where the urchins pick their nose in the sun With the left hand I have split the infinitive Beyond is anything Are the Malley poems just rubbish Or did the compilers of this hasty oeuvre, in mimicking surrealist techniques, inadvertently liberate a deeper world of meaning In any case, Ern took on a life of his own, and soon became a cult figure, the missing genius of Australian literature The artist Sidney Nolan painted his portrait.I ve often thought that the Malley affair is a classic Australian movie just waiting to be made The story formed the basis of Peter Carey s much fictionalised account, My Life as a Fake 2002 , but the Malley story is compelling enough without magic realist embellishments Michael Heyward s book includes the full text of Ern s legendary manuscript Almost sixty years later, the enigma remains As Ern put it, I am still The black swan of trespass on alien waters. Skim read this, really Has the material for a wonderful five minute anecdote, but not for 300 pages Or perhaps I just lack the stomach for undergraduate politics and the infighting of poets.