post factual

Posted on June 19, 2011
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A member of the LIkeithateit team has been reading and enjoying a collection of short stories by William Boyd.  On his recommendation the team did a little digging into the writer’s background and duly found out that William Boyd was responsible for one of the great literary hoaxes.  He invented an artist.  Curiously, everyone believed him.  Indeed many people in the art world started claiming that they had known Nat Tate…. From The guardian

Yet William Boyd eclipsed them all in 1998 with the invention of American artist, Nat Tate, his enfant terrible of the postwar years. Tate was a creation of such imagination, such charisma and such depth that he almost couldn’t not be real; not so much a hoax, more a literary game made flesh. “I’d been toying with the idea of how things moved from fact to fiction,” says Boyd, “and I wanted to prove something fictive could prove factual. The plan had been to slowly reveal the fiction over a long period of time, but it didn’t really work like that.”

It took Boyd a couple of years to construct Tate’s persona. It wasn’t so much the framework – the reclusive genius who, conveniently, destroyed almost all of his own work and who killed himself at the age of 32 in 1960 – as the details that took the time. “Much of the illusion was created in the details, the footnotes and in getting the book published in Germany to make it look like an authentic art monograph,” he says.

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