Feb 12, 2010

Not plagiarism, just mixed up

Back in the olden days, when a writer took an author's words and pretended they were his own it was called plagiarism. Helene Hegemann, a 17-year-old writer in Germany has, with the ascent of some book critics, redefined this act of wrongdoing as one of authenticity.

A blogger first uncovered the fact that Hegemann's "Axolotl Roadkill" contained whole passages taken from another book called "Strobo." Hegemann's novel is up for a $20,000 prize at the Leipzig Book Fair.

From the New York Times:
Although Ms. Hegemann has apologized for not being more open about her sources, she has also defended herself as the representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” said Ms. Hegemann in a statement released by her publisher after the scandal broke.
An ingenious defense. "Originality" doesn't exist, but "authenticity," a word whose very meaning depends on the concept of being true to the original ("not false or imitation"), does.

Journalist Gerald Posner, who had to step down from his gig at the Daily Beast after acknowledging he had plagiarized the Miami Herald, will be pleased to know that he was actually being authentic by taking someone else's words. And the person who wrote the words he lifted was apparently unoriginal.

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