Saturday, January 19, 2008

Is A Long Way Gone Just A Thousand Little Pieces?

An investigation into some of the key facts underlying Ishmael Beah's autobiography A Long Way Gone suggests that his experiences in war torn Sierra Leone may not have happened the way they are described in the book. Among the assertions that The Weekend Australia raises are that Beah was two years older when he went to war than he states in the book (15 versus 13) and instead of being in the army for 2 years it may have been only 2-3mths. There are other factual details that on investigation by The Weekend Australian tend to undercut critical and important facets of Beah's story.

Thus far, there has been no response from Farrar, Straus and Giroux the US publisher and I hope there is some reasonable explanation for the identified problems in this book. Beah has gone on to become a United Nations advocate for children affected by war as well as a frequent spokes person in support of his book. This is important work and it would be horrible if this work were impacted. The Australian is an important news organization in Australia so they will not have taken this story lightly.

The disparities in Beah's account came about through some very elemental research by someone who had just read the book and then found themselves working in Sierra Leone. It doesn't appear that it took too much effort to find these errors. It remains to be seen if this escalates into a Frey type melt down or the record is corrected in some minor inconsequential way.

More from The Australian: Here

Monday Update: Here

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