Okay, I realise this is my third post in under 24 hours, but what the hell.
Chandrahas's post on Borges made me go and issue out a copy of Chronicles of Bustos Domecq from the library (it's a delightful book, though not, perhaps, Borges's best work). One of the pieces in the book struck me as particularly relevant to the current discussion on plagiarism.
In the piece, Borges (or rather Domecq), in his glorious mock-academic style, extolls the virtues of one Cesar Paladion. This extraordinary novelist, a true literary innovator of his time, takes the use of quotations in such masterworks as Eliot's Waste Land and Pound's Cantos to its logical extreme. If it's legitimate to use entire lines by other authors in one's own work in the name of inspiration, Paladion asks (and clearly, it is acceptable, even necessary, to use the same words as other writers), then why not a whole book?
Motivated by this idea, Paladion gives us such wonders as Emile, She, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Uncle Tom's Cabin and The Georgics (he is rumoured to have been at work on The Gospel According to St. Luke at the time of his death). Each of these masterworks consists of a single book-length quote from another author - Paladion, with the iron discipline of the true artist, does not add nor omit a single comma, nor does he commit the "all-too-easy vanity of writing a single new line". Domecq, quoting Farrel du Bosc's authoritative study, which in turn quotes the literary critic Myriam Powell-Paul Fort (don't you just love Borges!) calls this an "amplification of units", and argues that it is an act of signal genius, that the literary community has regrettably overlooked, perhaps because of the confusion occasioned in lesser minds by the apparent similarity of Paladion's work to those of the writers he quotes, though in truth, of course, aside from their entire prose content, these works could not be more different.
Kaavya, are you listening?
Categories: CurrentAffairs, Humour, Books