Gert was amused last year when the memoir of a – well, not famously eloquent – footballer came out with the title In my own words and the byline with (name of ghostwriter). She was reminded of the French film Mensonges et Trahisons in which a ghostwriter is hired to write the autobiography of a famous soccer star.
The jaded ghostwriter, used to the boring egos of models and sports stars, is horrified to discover that the soccer star has advanced and contradictory literary and philosophical ideas that must, he insists, be woven into the book – not unlike Julian Assange, who wanted his memoir to be like Hemingway, like Ayn Rand, and like Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man.
Unlike the soccer star, though, Assange didn’t really want the book to be written at all, even though he had taken an advance of half a million pounds. ‘The man who put himself in charge of disclosing the world’s secrets simply couldn’t bear his own. The story of his life mortified him and sent him scurrying for excuses,’ says O’Hagan.
In the story of Jennie Erdal and Naim Attallah (Ghosts 1) we saw a monstrous ego colonising a weaker one. There’s another monstrous ego in Assange, the Wolf Boy of cyberspace, but the subtle and astute O’Hagan, walking, as he says, ‘the border between fiction and non-fiction’ that is the weird territory Assange inhabits, is more than a match for him. He sees exactly what Assange is up to with his endless forms of time-wasting and avoidance and refuses to be manipulated into a friend, a sympathiser, a father-figure or a ‘quietly ineffectual follower’.
The work he did was eventually published, though unauthorised by Assange. But it could hardly be more interesting than the full fascinatingly awful story O’Hagan tells in The London Review of Books vol 36 no 5 5-6 March 2014, which you can read here:
There’s an interesting article in the Melbourne newspaper The Age April 19th 2014 discussing the relationship between journalists and their sources, and a book by Matthew Ricketson Telling True Stories that looks at the moral issues this relationship raises .