Monday, February 8, 2010

Berlin Bestseller Author Admits Plagiarism

The local Berlin news RBB reports that the 17-year-old wunderkind bestseller author of Axolotl Roadkill, Helene Hegemann, has admitted to plagiarism. The accusations were published by the Munich blogger Deef Pirmasen. (Interview with Deef Pirmasen in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the blog is sometimes not reachable).

Deef Pirmasen reports wondering how the author as a 16-year-old was able to get into the Berghain club, which is widely known for pitching out people who even appear to be a day younger than 21. And there were some words such as "Technoplastizität" that are not really in general use. He suddenly remembered the blogger Airen who had published a text "Strobo - Technoprosa aus dem Berghain" with the underground publisher SuKuLTur-Verlag.

The publisher, Ullstein Verlag, has put out her apologies quickly after the plagiarism accusations. She does, however, defend what she did:
"Das, was wir machen, ist eine Summierung aus den Dingen, die wir erleben, lesen, mitkriegen und träumen", schrieb Hegemann. "Originalität gibt's sowieso nicht, nur Echtheit." [What we do is the sum of the things that we experience, read, observe and dream. There is no originality, only reality.]
Ullstein is said to be trying to obtain a license to use the plagiarized materials from Airen.

Update: Prodded on by numerous journalists trying to interview me (and since I am proctoring a long exam, only the ones who can deal with email win this one), I note that this case of matching story plagiarism is a matching story to a case in the US. Harvard student and Wunderkind Kaavya Viswanathan published “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild,  and Got a Life,” which turned out to be extremely similar to Megan F. McCaffert's “Sloppy Firsts” (2001) and “Second Helpings” (2003). The Wikipedia entry has an extremely detailed table with the matches from the book which was withdrawn.

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