Hughes apologises for plagiarism in Miles Franklin-longlisted novel
In an exclusive article, the Guardian Australia reports it has found multiple instances of plagiarism in John Hughes’s novel The Dogs (Upswell), recently longlisted for the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award.
The Guardian said it found 58 ‘similarities and some identical sentences’ in a comparison of The Dogs and the English translation of Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich’s nonfiction book The Unwomanly Face of War after the newspaper ‘uncover[ed] some some similarities between the books [and] applied document comparison software to both texts’.
According to a statement from Hughes, the author was surprised to find so many similarities between his novel and Alexievich’s work of nonfiction, both of which deal with theme of trauma during the Second World War. The Unwomanly Face of War is a collection of first-person oral histories from Soviet women who experienced WWII, gathered by Alexievich and first published in 1985.
‘After so many recordings and transcripts of conversations with my Ukrainian grandparents and trying to integrate these into the “ruins” of the earlier drafts, I’d come to think of that oral material as theirs,’ said Hughes.
‘This is not to say the words are not Alexievich’s, simply that I no longer remembered them as such. Over the years I’d picked up so many bits and pieces and woven them so tightly into what I hoped was a coherent whole I could no longer unpick them, even if I had wanted to. I don’t mean by this to excuse the appropriation, merely to explain that Alexievich’s first-hand accounts of Russian women from the Second World War are so much like my grandmother’s fragments as she related them to me, the two became conflated in my mind.’
Hughes has since apologised to Alexievich. ‘I did not at any stage in the writing intend to pass off Alexievich’s work as my own and was truly surprised when I saw the material included in the article … Nevertheless, the fact remains, and I would like to apologise to Ms Alexievich and her translators for using their words without acknowledgment.’
Upswell publisher Terri-ann White said she ‘stand[s] steadfast alongside the author, despite the appropriations now evident in this text’.
‘It is my responsibility to make amends and acknowledge these primary source materials in the book I have published,’ White said.
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