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Ern Malley hoax

Ern Malley was to be considered as "one of the two giants of contemporary Australian poetry", or so said Adelaide's Max Harris, novelist, poet and editor of the literary journal Angry Penguins. Malley was dead at 25 from a neglected illness and his sister, Ethel, submitted Ern's poems, which she found after his death, to Angry Penguins. Harris was impressed and published Malley's complete works with artwork by Sidney Nolan, inspired by the tragic poet, in the autumn 1944 edition of Angry Penguins. Not everyone was as excited by Malley's work, believing it derivative and of little literary value.

In June 1944 it was revealed that Ern Malley had never existed. He was fabricated by James McAuley and Harold Stewart. McAuley and Stewart were non-combatant soldiers who detested modernist literature, finding it pretentious and incomprehensible, and wrote the poems to expose the emptiness of such works. They claimed that they spent longer concocting the details of Malley's life than they did composing the poems. The content of some of the poems shocked some and even after the hoax had been revealed Harris was found guilty of publishing and distributing indecent material.

Angry Penguins will be angrier
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Mystery of poet stirs 'varsity
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