Wednesday, November 18, 2009

plagiarism or publicity: the unravelling of Witi Ihaemara

Last week the New Zealand Listener broke the story that one of New Zealand’s best known novelists, University of Auckland lecturer, Witi Ihaemara had been caught with 16 instances of plagiarism in his latest novel, The Trowenna Sea. Reviewer Jolisa Greenwood felt a number of sentences were clunky. A quick check using the power of google, revealed word for word usage from authors as diverse as Peter Godwin, Karen Sinclair and Charles Dickens. Faced with the claims, Ihaemara acknowledged his mistake.

Today he has announced he will buy back all remaining books from bookstores. Wow. That’s a big call. He intends to go away and rework the 0.4% of the book.

Coincidentally, just yesterday he was also announced as a Laurete by the New Zealand Arts Foundation. It comes with a $50,000 prize, for him to spend as he sees fit. Perhaps on buying back copies of his book!

All in all, it’s a sad story.

If you want my future-cast,
– people who have already brought the book are now sitting on a winner. Especially if they have an autographed copy!
– book sales of the book, when it comes out re-worked and re-packaged, will now do much, much better. Nothing like a tinge of scandal to attract the discerning public.
– a number of academic articles will be written, comparing the old Witi with the new Witi, and evaluating the extent of his editing. (Hence my first point, about the value of “original Witi’s)
– Witi will be insisting his publisher provide a new line editor. And wondering if this ever wood have happened in a world pre-google.

Posted by steve at 05:10 PM

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