Christine Kenneally has written for The New Yorker magazine, The New York Times, Slate and New Scientist. In a recent 5,000-word longform article for The Monthly literary magazine in Australia headlined “The Fabulist of Auschwitz,” Kenneally has
looked into Australian author Heather Morris’s two controversial and fabricated Holocaust novels ‘‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’’ and ‘’Cilka’s Journey,’’ and asked readers worldwide to think about ”the problem of truth in historical fiction.”
Her conclusion: ”If Morris hadn’t called her novel’s main character Cilka Klein and marketed it as based on the real person from Bardejov, stepson George Kovach said he would have gone on thinking of his stepmother Cecilia as he always had. His problem with the novel in the end was not whether Cilka did awful things. The problem was that Morris had given her composite character the name of one real person. It meant she had it both ways. The idea that the two [Holocaust sexcapade romance] novels were essentially real protected them from accusations of distortion and disrespect. Yet the idea that they were fiction gave them the same cover. But you can’t call something true and also fiction. It amounted, Kovach said, to doing what you wanted with real people and experiencing no consequences.”
So read the latest take-down of Heather Morris and her ”wicked ways’ here. Then think about it what’s she has done to the memory of the Nazi Holocaust.
She is now hard at work writing a third novel in her Holocaust series of four novels. Despite the worldwide criticism of her unvetted writing style, she remains adamant that she is right and her critics are wrong and nothing will stop her. It’s not about the money. She didn’t start writng these novels for money. Something else motivates her. But what?
In an article I wrote a year ago, titled “Planned ‘Tattooist of Auschwitz’ sequel ‘Cilka’s Journey’ prompts more questions from Holocaust scholars,” I exclaimed in print: “Here we go again!”
“[The Jews] feel protective and [feel they have] a degree of [ownership] over the Holocaust story. I totally ‘get’ that, but maybe there’s room for both of us?” — Heather Morris
That was Holocaust romance writer Heather Morris defending her two controversial novels in a rather offensive and aggressive manner in an interview. Her statement is tone deaf and borderline anti-semitic, according to one Jewish observer I spoke with.
After many literary critics and Holocaust scholars attacked Heather Morris’ unvetted and un-factchecked romantic sexcapade novel set in a Nazi concentration camp in the 1940s, the Australian editor and publisher Angela Meyer had the chutzpah to completely ignore the criticism from reporters at the New York Times and The Australian and forge ahead with the release of a so-called “sequel” to the first novel in what is now a two-part series.
Holocaust scholars at the Auschwitz Memorial in Poland say they already found the story of a Jewish character named Cilka, partly told in Morris’s debut novel and now set to be continued in the sequel titled ”Cilka’s Journey” to be ”highly questionable.
British reporters Alison Flood and Kate Nicholson at the Guardian newspaper looked into the marketing plans for a sequel and came up flabbergasted. Flood had earlier reported on the the inaccuracies in “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” and now this? Yes, that’s how irresponsible and amoral some editors in the publishing industry in Australia have become.
Scholars at the Auschwitz Memorial in Poland have voiced concern after Morris — who is not Jewish and grew up in a rural New Zealand town where she never met or knew any Jews as a child or a teenager — said a sequel to ”The Tattooist of Auschwitz” will be published and will use the real life of a Jewish woman sent to the Nazi concentration camp as a child as ”inspiration” for another “based on a true story” literary fabrication.
And guess what? It’s another sex and romance love story and again it’s aimed squarely at a female audience of non-Jewish readers of escapist romance novels. You’d think that Morris would have learned her lesson the first time out of the gate, but no, she’s wants to make more money for her publishers and herself with a follow-up of questionable taste and accuracy. It is not ”based on a true story” as the cover of the sequel will say, just as the first book in the series was also not ”based on a true story.”
It’s a marketing and PR strategy and in the long run, it’s going to backfire.