The cover depicted a large-breasted
Jewish girl with a raygun.
The online magazine "Tablet" publishes stories about Jewish news and culture, so they were interested when they heard a proposal from writer Shay Azoulay. He wanted to write a short biography about an largely unknown author named Jacob Wallenstein, who in 1955 wrote a thousand-page science fiction novel in Hebrew called "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow".
As Mr. Azoulay described it, the book was prophetic about the future – among other things, it predicted that people in 2050 would sit in front of "Telewriters" at home and work – machines that combined the functions of the telephone, television and typewriter.
Tablet said they would pay him $250 to publish his essay, called "Jacob Wallenstein, Notes for a Future Biography."
Yet when they began to fact-check the article, despite Internet searches and phone calls to experts, they could find nothing anywhere about the book, or its author, Mr. Wallenstein.
It was as if he was so obscure, he never existed.
They were right.
When they confronted Mr. Azoulay, he admitted that he’d made up the whole thing. He said it was his "desperate attempt to get noticed", and he didn’t mean to create a literary fraud. Instead, he wanted to create more of a harmless literary hoax.
Tablet was so charmed by his piece that they published it anyway. They compared it to some of the strange literary convolutions of the writer Jorge Luis Borges:
"All he did was distill energies that were already there, urgent but incoherent, into the beautifully tragic figure of a man who ought to have existed but, almost inexplicably, didn’t."
They did, however, publish it as fiction.
Here’s an excerpt. (Remember: this is a fake description of the plot of a fake book, written as a fake biography of a fake author):
"Wallenstein presents the story of a secretary who receives a certain form whose intent is quite clear, but which in her view is not filled out according to her department’s precise demands. Rather than process the form, the secretary returns it to the sender with a note demanding that it be resubmitted in the appropriate manner. The sender does not comply, and instead registers a complaint against the secretary’s claim, along with written proof from his departmental protocol that the form was indeed filled out properly. A supervisor from the interdepartmental coordination office is brought in to resolve the issue and decides that the problem actually lies in the inconsistent methods of classification employed by the different departments. An inspector from the Standards department disagrees and claims that certain terms that appear in the form are inadequately defined. A lexicology department assessor is summoned and… on and on it goes, ad infinitum, and nothing gets done.
Ad infinitum, indeed.
You can read a more detailed explanation of Tablet’s sleuthing, as well as the article they published, here: Jacob Wallenstein Is the Greatest Science-Fiction Writer to Never Have Lived. The Israeli’s magnum opus, ‘Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow,’ is so good, it should have existed, Tablet>>