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I once read a short story about a man (a journalist?) visiting a prison inmate. He was incarcerated for a crime he did not commit, and it was a case of mistaken identity or insufficient alibi. The conviction hinged on the fact that he could not prove that he was really himself because he could not remember the location of a country he had been to. The story ended with the journalist leaving the prison making a note to himself to remember things so as to not be in such a situation himself.

Please identify the story. I must have read it a decade ago, but the story itself was probably very old (a century old or more, think O.Henry/Maupassant/Hawthorne…). I read the story in English, but it could have been a translation.

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    Do you remember any other details? Was it a short story? Approximately how many years is "years ago"? Any idea how old the story might have been at the time and what format you read it in (online, separate book, anthology)? Did you read it in English? Feb 27 '17 at 9:50
  • Added the few additional things I could remember. Feb 27 '17 at 9:53
  • @RazimanTV Could it be "Tout à l'Ego" by Tonino Benacquista? The story, set in 1994, was first published in 1998 so it could fit the "I must have read it a decade ago" part, but certainly not the "a century old or more" part.
    – VicAche
    Feb 27 '17 at 19:44
  • @RazimanTV Opening quote: "Do you know what you where doing, on July the 17th, 1994, between 10 and 11pm? No? Me neither. Nobody knows this."
    – VicAche
    Feb 27 '17 at 19:52
  • Unlikely, I am hearing the name of the author for the first time. Feb 27 '17 at 20:14
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This matches in almost every detail ‘The Lost Sanjak’ by Saki, published in Reginald in Russia and Other Sketches (1910).

  • “a man (a journalist?) visiting a prison inmate”

    The prison Chaplain entered the condemned’s cell for the last time, to give such consolation as he might.

  • “He was incarcerated for a crime he did not commit”

    “In ten minutes’ time I shall be hanged by the neck until I am dead in expiation of the murder of myself, which murder never took place, and of which, in any case, I am necessarily innocent.”

  • “it was a case of mistaken identity or insufficient alibi”

    “To make matters worse, infinitely worse, an aunt of the really murdered man, an appalling female of an obviously low order of intelligence, identified me as her nephew.”

  • “The conviction hinged on the fact that he could not prove that he was really himself”

    “I had looked forward apprehensively to the proving of my identity and the establishment of my motives as a disagreeable necessity; I speedily found out that the most disagreeable part of the business was that it couldn’t be done.”

  • “because he could not remember the location of a country he had been to”

    “The prosecution had made a careful note of the circumstance that the man whom I claimed to be—and actually was—had posed locally as some sort of second-hand authority on Balkan affairs, and, in the midst of a string of questions on indifferent topics, the examining counsel asked me with a diabolical suddenness if I could tell the Court the whereabouts of Novibazar. I felt the question to be a crucial one; something told me that the answer was St. Petersburg or Baker Street. I hesitated, looked helplessly round at the sea of tensely expectant faces, pulled myself together, and chose Baker Street.”

  • “The story ended with the journalist leaving the prison making a note to himself to remember things so as to not be in such a situation himself.”

    When the Chaplain returned to his quarters some fifteen minutes later, the black flag was floating over the prison tower. Breakfast was waiting for him in the dining-room, but he first passed into his library, and, taking up the Times Atlas, consulted a map of the Balkan Peninsula. “A thing like that,” he observed, closing the volume with a snap, “might happen to any one.”

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  • Perfect. I had considered many classic short-story writers but missed Saki somehow. Apr 20 at 15:10
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You might be remembering a chapter (commonly excerpted as a short story and often translated into English) called "The Prisoner," from Alexander Dumas's /The Man in the Iron Mask/ (itself a section of a longer work written in the 1840s, /The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later/). "The Prisoner" is available in an English translation via Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2759/2759-h/2759-h.htm#link2HCH0001). The "interviewer" is a priest, not a journalist, but the prisoner's situation sounds very similar (memory problems, doesn't know why he is imprisoned, etc.).

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  • Thank you, but this is not it. Definitely more recent than Dumas! Jun 14 '19 at 6:35

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