Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Book Challenges Nobel Prize Winner's Autobiography

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Book Challenges Nobel Prize Winner's Autobiography

Article excerpt

A report by a U.S. anthropologist claims that Rigoberta Menchu, the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner, fabricated key details in her autobiography.

The details of David Stoll's book, Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans, were described in the Dec. 15 New York Times. After nearly a decade of archival research and interviews with more than 120 people, Stoll concluded that Menchu's 1983 book, I, Rigoberta Menchu, "cannot be the eyewitness account it purports to be" because the indigenous Quiche activist repeatedly recounts "experiences she never had herself."

The New York Times also conducted interviews with relatives, neighbors, friends and former classmates and teachers of Menchu, who said that main episodes in her autobiography were fabricated or exaggerated.

Interviewees said that the land dispute central to the book was a family feud between Menchu's father and his in-laws and not a fight against wealthy landowners of European descent.

A younger brother, Nicolas, whom Menchu, now 39, said she watched die of starvation, was actually an older brother, who is still alive. Nicolas Menchu said the family had two sons who died of hunger and disease before he was born in 1949.

Another brother that Menchu said she and her parents watched being burned alive by army troops was kidnapped, turned over to the army and shot when the family was not present, Nicolas Menchu told the Times.

Menchu said in the first page of her book that "I never went to school. …

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