September 13, 2010

Houellebecq says theft of text isn’t the same as plagiarism


Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq has admitted to stealing passages verbatim from Wikipedia for his latest novel, Carte et le Territoire, but according to a report from the Independent he has angrily dismissed the suggestion that this constitutes plagiarism as “ridiculous.”

The Independent‘s John Lichfield says Houellebecq does not deny copying “technical descriptions from the anonymous compilers of Wikipedia,” including “a description of how flies have sex.” But he says of the people calling this plagiarism, “If these people really think that [this is plagiarism], they haven’t got the first notion of what literature is. This is part of my method.”

He explained further, “This approach, muddling real documents and fiction, has been used by many authors. I have been influenced especially by [Georges] Perec and [Jorge Luis] Borges… I hope that this contributes to the beauty of my books, using this kind of material.”

Meanwhile, reports Lichfield, the book is the “runaway favourite to win the most prestigious of French literary prizes, the Prix Goncourt, this autumn.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him at @mobylives