Monday 28 May 2012

The Greatest Liar on Earth

The Greatest Liar on Earth The Greatest Liar on Earth by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frane Lessac (Walker Books)
HB RRP $29.95
ISBN 9781921529856
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

He was a liar, and a fabricator of stories; a great pretender. The adventures told by Louis de Rougemont, a persuasive hoaxer, were believed by so many he quickly became a celebrity. He was invited to speak at gatherings of prominent and other interested people who filled the theatres to hear his tales of life threatening episodes and miraculous escapes.

But who was he really? When he was uncovered and ridiculed by being billed as ‘The Greatest Liar on Earth’ first in South Africa then in Australia, he returned to what he had been before his great deception. A man of no account: lost and forever searching.

With this book Mark Greenwood and his illustrator wife Frane Lessac, have brought to our attention a great story in history and an astonishing life albeit a falsified one. Henri Louis Grin aka de Rougemont, whose life is recorded in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, was highly intelligent otherwise he would never have pulled off this incredible deception. His speaking ability was exceptional and he persuaded his audiences that he had actually experienced all the adventures and dangers that he related to them. Nothing was more important to him than the urge to be something other than what he was. He abandoned his wife and seven children in pursuit of this ambition. He spent his life moving from one persona to another, but at the same time, learning, reading and changing.

Although this fantastic story is a picture book it is also for an ageless audience. Illustrated using gouache, it freely depicts in vibrant colours what can only be described as the extraordinary life and death of a great and temporarily successful pretender. 

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