Helen Demidenko

Several books could and doubtless will be written to explore the sociological and psychological puzzles attending Helen Darville’ s remarkable masquerade. Robert Manne has no interest in the motivations of Helen Darville. His concerns are cultural and political, and therefore focus on the fictional character, Helen Demidenko: on her writings and statements, and on the responses of Australian intellectuals to those writings and statements during her brief life from 1992 to late August, 1995.

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From 1994 two letters to the editor published now for the first time  ... The first letter, from Helen Demidenko, was offered for publication; the second, from B. Wongar author of Roki was marked ‘not for publication’.

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From Paul Salzman

Dear Editor,

It is a shame that allegations of plagiarism in The Hand That Signed The Paper were trivialised into questions of literary echoes that would certainly not have worried any serious member of that curious entity, the literary community. As someone deeply troubled by the anti-Semitism manifested in the novel, I have been interested to know where the Ukrainian material that ‘Demidenko’ defended as family history may have come from. Perhaps we will never know, but now it seems that the plagiarism issue was really something of a red herring, distracting attention from what was most disturbing about the novel and its attendant prizes. I cannot see that ‘postmodemism’, under any definition, could be blamed for this situation, given that the Miles Franklin judgment is based, I believe, on a bankrupt and outmoded humanism that sees abstract moral truth in literary works without having any sophisticated regard for politics or history.

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Whether you track backwards in time from the hidden pestilence that is Chernobyl, or forwards from the vengeful terror of Stalin’s collectivisation and anti-nationalist policies, it is an inescapable fact that the Ukraine has had a bloody and awful century. In the winter of 1932-33 alone some four to five million Ukrainians died in ...

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