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PIERRE SAUVAGE ON VILLAGE OF SECRETS (ctd.)

—SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

to my article in Tablet, Oct. 31, 2014

 

SOME OF THE MISTAKES...

IS VILLAGE OF SECRETS INDEED "RIDDLED WITH ERRORS?"

 

My article in Tablet on Oct. 31 gives an overview of Caroline Moorehead’s new book Village of Secrets, as I see it and have been maligned by it. This supplementary text provides additional examples of the truly astonishing number of errors the book contains.

To London’s Sunday Times, in an article titled “Row over prize book’s ‘errors,’” Moorehead insisted that “every word” in her book is documented in her notes.

Below you will find long lists of what I believe to be errors, in addition to those already cited in the Tablet article.  I realize that there is some overlap with errors already noted on Tablet, for which I apologize.

To be sure, some of these errors will appear minor to the reader—but just imagine if it was your story that was being garbled.  Some, like the historical errors mentioned in the Tablet article, are not minor at all.

If Moorehead wishes to prove that any of these alleged errors are demonstrable facts, then she could certainly proceed to impugn my credibility even more than she already attempted to do in her book.

Before coming to general errors that may be of interest to readers, I list the errors noted by my friends Max and Hanne Liebmann and my friend Nelly Trocmé Hewett, along with their comments.

 

ERRORS—THE TESTIMONY OF MAX AND HANNE LIEBMANN

 

As I stated in Tablet, very few people figure more prominently in Moorehead’s account than Max and especially Hanne Hirsch Liebmann.  There are forty-four references to Hanne, and additional ones to Max.  Both experienced the French internment camps, and later both found shelter in Le Chambon, Hanne for a considerable length of time at the children’s homes run by the Swiss relief group Secours Suisse (Moorehead mistakenly indicates at one point that the homes were operated by the Jewish O.S.E. organization).

Although the Liebmanns were not sent a copy of the book by Moorehead or her British publisher, they were among the very first American readers of the book who know a lot about the subject.

While they do not, of course, challenge every single detail of Moorehead’s account of them, they are outraged by the massive number of errors in Moorehead’s references to them and their families.

Max and Hanne also point out that they signed no releases regarding their story (none had been sought, contrary to prudent practices in non-fiction), and that Moorehead never submitted to them for accuracy what she was writing about them.  They report that they have expressed their outrage to HarperCollins and to Moorehead about the way their story is told.  According to Hanne, she told Moorehead, “It is wrong, it is fiction, it is not history.”

In the Sunday Times article, Hanne is cited as having given four examples of Moorehead’s inaccuracies with regard to Hanne’s story.  We are also provided Moorehead’s responses on these four points.

ERRORS—THE TESTIMONY OF NELLY TROCMÉ HEWETT

As for Nelly Trocmé Hewett, daughter of pastor André Trocmé of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and his wife Magda Trocmé, she states the following:

With her new book, Moorehead seriously damages her reputation as a serious writer.  Who helped her with fact-checking or even simple details like the correct spelling of the names of the people she mentions? The text is loaded with egregious errors and personal sarcastic judgments. Her distortions go from trivial and even invented small stories to historical facts.

My mother never sewed tulle curtains for our house: she had more important involvements. And my father never carved small wooden toys for us, nor did he escape to have family picnics: he hated picnics.  There are so many stupidities that come up in the book that I just gave up on correcting them. They are just too numerous.

When Caroline Moorehead was doing her research, I had her as a house guest.  I gladly let her interview me. She was friendly. I understand now why silence followed her visit…

When I later complained to her that I had never been asked to review anything being said about my parents, she responded, to my surprise, that this was not practice in the United Kingdom.


ERRORS—LIST OF ADDITIONAL MISCELLANEOUS ERRORS

 

ERRORS—THE ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, THE BIBLIOGRAPHY, PHOTOGRAPH CAPTIONS, PROPER NAMES…

 

The acknowledgments

In her acknowledgements, Moorehead expresses her gratitude for the stories that she says that she heard from quite a number of people. Among the sources she thanks are Léon Eyraud, Madame [Marguerite] Roussel, and "Lulu" [Lucie] Ruel.
This is amazing scholarship because Eyraud and Roussel died, respectively in 1953 and 1996. Lucie Ruel, for her part, was already deceased when I interviewed her daughter in 1982.

 

The bibliography

Among the errors in the references to books Moorehead lists are the following:

About photographs:

About proper names:

I also don’t understand why Moorehead finds it necessary to blaze new trails with regard to how she spells French proper names: why, for instance, she consistently writes “le Chambon” instead of “Le Chambon,” why she writes “Mazet” instead of “Le Mazet,” why the Cimade (la Cimade in French) becomes just “Cimade,” why Le Vernet is turned into “Vernet,” etc.  All this was in the British edition, and is preserved in the American HarperCollins edition.

Other proper names too get brutalized: writer André Chamson become “André Chanson,” Jean Giraudoux becomes Giradoux…  (Perhaps some of these misspellings are just typos, of which there are many throughout the book.)

As for the countless French misspellings, as a Frenchman I may be one of the few people will care that Moorehead and her editors think that that the French abbreviation for Monsieur is a simple unpunctuated “M”; it is, of course, “M.”

More peculiar is why she omits so many first names when they could easily have been determined.


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