17 year old prodigy Helene Hegemann admits that her bestseller "Axolotl Roadkill" is not as original as previously assumed.
"The publication last month of her novel about a 16-year-old exploring Berlin’s drug and club scene after the death of her mother, called “Axolotl Roadkill,” was heralded far and wide in German newspapers and magazines as a tremendous debut, particularly for such a young author. The book shot to No. 5 this week on the magazine Spiegel’s hardcover best-seller list", writes the New York Times.
Unfortunately, parts of it were lifted. "It's not plagiarism", says the author.
(Links are to German original sources, translations, including iffy ones, mine. Apologies in advance, this is my first post.)
According to Media Consulter Deef Pirmasens, who uncovered it all on his blog
, a fair bit of the book is actually copied off and only marginally changed from several different sources, most notably the book Strobo
by a blogger called Airen
. Strobo never received a lot of attention when it was published.
For comparison's sake, Deef Pirmasens, and later the newspaper FAZ
, list the passages that have been lifted. Example: (I'll translate these in a comment if required):
“Ich habe Fieber, Koordinantionsschwierigkeiten, ein Promille im überhitzten Blut…”
“Ich habe ein Grad Fieber sowie ein knappes Promill Alkohol im überhitzten Blut.”
Deef outs one particularly lauded part, a letter by the protagonist's mother, to be merely a German translation of the song Fuck U
Helene Hegemann admitted to having taken and assimilated other people's writing without crediting. However: "I didn't just copy this stuff. It's not about plagiarism but intertextuality", she says
. "Very many artists use this technique (...) by organically including parts in my text, I am entering into a dialogue with the author".
In the meantime, publisher Ullstein
has acquired the rights
to the necessary sections of Airen's book, and both books seem to have profited from the drama. Hegemann has still been nominated for a prize at the Leipzig book fair. Hegemann told the German press agency DPA: "This is a century old debate that is being fought out over me. If that's how we're going to handle it, we might as well just shut down the literary industry."
Unrelated to this, author Jeff Noon
"Film-makers use jump cuts, freeze frames, slow motion. Musicians remix, scratch, sample. Can't we writers have some fun as well?"