Friday, July 18, 2008

Forbidden Lie$

How easy would it be to write a piece of fiction and get reputable publishers to publish it as a non-fiction book? Apparently not difficult at all.

Norma Khouri wrote a book (Forbidden Love aka Honour Lost) about the honour killing of her best friend in Jordan and got it published by Random House as a non-fiction book. It seems that simple geographical mistakes like describing the river of Jordan flowing through the city of Amman and describing Jordan as bordering Kuwait didn't ring alarm bells, even when they were pointed out to the publishers by Jordanians. Of course such a book, published at a time when the Western World was hungry for negative stories about Muslims would be much more sensational (and profitable) as non-fiction than as fiction.

I would have thought that once the hoax was blown the publisher would back away from the author and apologised to the readers but not in this case.

In Anna Broinowski's documentary about this con job she manages to convince Norma Khouri to prove that she isn't the con artist that she now appears to be and Norma takes up the challenge with relish. Anna and Norma lead each other (and us) on an amazing dance of claim and refutation. Norma seems to have an inexhaustible supply of explanations for every refutation and for every time she changes her story. Anna and Norma follow the trail from Australia to the US and to Jordan and back. Norma is a pretty and charming, petite woman which probably helps tug our sympathies in her direction. I wouldn't blame you if you left the cinema wondering if you could believe what anyone says.

I was left with one niggling question: Broinowski went to the expense of flying her crew and Norma and Norma's body guard to Jordan, so why didn't she make things much easier for herself and take someone who could speak and read Arabic? Instead she relies mostly on Norma and her friends for translations of documents and what people are telling her.

Ian's rating 4/5

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