LONDON, April 10: India's latest celebrity writer, former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao says that his novel is both fact and fiction. A previous celebrity writer, Arundhati Roy's harshest critics accused her of inaccuracy with her facts, in a work that she said was fictional. But the line that divides the truth from fiction is thin and often blurred, and apart from the writer in question, few can easily tell where one ends and the other begins.
The writer William Boyd set out to test just something like this, in New York, on April Fools day.
In what has been billed as the biggest April fools joke on the literary and art world of US's most arty and literary city, Boyd and his publisher launched his new book, a biography of the American artist Nat Tate. Nat Tate was an orphan, who according to his biographer was an abstract-impressionist, ``notionally of the New York School''; a friend of Picasso's and Brauqe's and a lover, albeit short-lived, of Peggy Guggenheim.
At 31, having first destroyed all hiswork Nat Tate, bought a ticket for the Staten Island Ferry, walked to the stern, climed on the rail and threw himself off. Hs body was never found.
David Bowie, one of the publishers read an extract from the book at the launch. The literary editor of The Independent who was at the New York launch said, that no one he spoke to claimed to know Tate well, but no one who claimed not to have heard of him. Nat Tate, however, never existed outside Boyd's mind. Some of his paintings, included in the book, were made by Boyd and the pictures of Nat Tate that feature in the ``biography'' are of unknown people that he happened to picked up in different places.
Lister says that he sniffed something fishy, since he appeared to be the only person in a room that included, artists, collectors, art historian, art dealers, New York based writers like Paul Auster and editors of literary journals, who had never heard of Tate. His suspicions were confirmed when he discovered that none of the galleries mentioned in the bookexisted. Boyd's publisher Karen Wright, admitted to Lister that she and the other publishers of the book who include David Bowie, had been aware that it was a scam, that was ``never meant maliciously''.
She said, ``There is a willingness not to appear foolish. No one wants to admit they've never heard of him. No one can have heard of every artist. But critics are too proud''. Boyd told The Independent, ``It's a little fable now and for any time... I think its particularly relevant now when, almost overnight, people are becoming art celebrities''.
Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.