VERNON SULLIVAN: THE BESTSELLING WRITER WHO DIDN’T EXIST


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This is one of the most interesting needulls that I have come across in a long time. I am truly fascinated by writers who manage to create an authentic persona just on the basis of secondary research.

I Spit On Your Graves marked the emergence of a beautifully corrosive African-American author, given full expression, as Chester Himes later would be, in France, except that, as it turned out, there was no Vernon Sullivan. He didn’t exist. For all its bitterness about race and racism, the novel was the work of a white man, its supposed translator, Boris Vian. And Vian had never even been to the United States. In contrast to his fictional creation, a black man who passes as white, Vian adopted a black persona, and his literary hoax, at least at first, succeeded. French readers thought Vernon Sullivan was real. They didn’t suspect Vian had done more than “translate” and supply the book’s informative preface. But who was Boris Vian exactly, and why had he perpetrated the hoax? What lay behind what now would be rightly called an egregious act of cultural appropriation?

The complete article

Scott Adlerberg — Literary Hub

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