Author's plagiarism puts spotlight on Germany's literati
GERMANY’S LITERATI celebrated 17-year-old Helena Hegemann as a literary shooting star for her writings on substance abuse and violent sex.
Now the Berlin teenager has fallen to earth after admitting she lifted from the internet huge chunks of her latest novel, Axolotl Roadkill.
Overnight, Hegemann has gone from writing sensation to poster girl for the so-called “copy-paste” generation that, rather than creating original material, lifts others’ material to create a new work.
“I helped myself to anything I thought described the way of life I was going for,” Hegemann told the Frankfurter Allgemeinenewspaper yesterday.
Sounding somewhat less than remorseful, she added: “There is no originality any more, just authenticity.”
Her plagiarism was revealed on a blog that compared several scenes of her novel, set in notorious Berlin club Berghain, with those of a blog called “Strobo. Technoprose from Berghain”.
The comparison shows identical sentence structure and turn of phrase, such as “overheated blood” and “shitty capitalism”.
The young author admitted having glanced at the “Strobo” blog but denied having read a published volume of the texts.
Yesterday the publisher of the book based on the blog claimed it had sold Hegemann’s father a copy of the book via the internet.
After a series of ecstatic reviews, Axolotl Roadkillhas reached fifth place of the German bestseller list and is already in its second printing.
“This is a book everyone over 30 should watch out for,” wrote the sober Frankfurter Allgemeine.
The revelations about the book’s origins have cast an uncomfortable light on a literary establishment that praised Hegemann’s portrait of a teenage girl for whom, in the words of one enthusiastic critic, “sex, violence and drugs are the only variety life offers”.
Yesterday the book’s defenders described Hegemann’s work – pitched as a novel – as a shining example of “modern web-based intertextuality”.
The novel was considered largely autobiographical thanks to experiences as daughter of a former dramaturge at Berlin’s leading Volksbühne theatre.
Those less enamoured by the book dismissed it as another entry in what one critic called the “vomit and fornication aesthetic” prevalent in much modern German literature and theatre.
Hegemann’s publisher has taken a dim view of its young author’s approach to authorship, saying it had contacted the publisher of the “Strobo” book.