The publisher of John Hughes’ 2021 book The Dogs says its trust was breached by the author, after the novel contained sections nearly identical to excerpts from Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina and the non-fiction work of a Nobel laureate.
In a statement posted on the Upswell Publishing website on FridayTerri-ann White said while her “impulse is always to stand by my author” she was offended by a line he wrote in an article justifying his work, published by the Guardian yesterday: “I wanted the appropriate passages to be seen and recognized as in a collage.
In that article, Hughes said, “I’ve always used other writers’ work in my own. He’s a rare writer who doesn’t. He denied being a plagiarist, saying the word was “a great oversimplification” of the process of “an allusive writer” who “always spoke through the voices of others… I didn’t hide that. is here to see it all.
Hughes acknowledged that as the book changed form he kept no notes on which parts based on which work, “so many sources became so integrated that I came to regard them as the mine”.
“I’m not a thief…I wanted the proper passages [in The Dogs] to be seen and recognized as in a collage,” he wrote. “But somewhere in the writing, my idea, like the focus, changed.”
An investigation by Guardian Australia found 58 similarities and identical examples of text between parts of The Dogs and the 2017 English translation of Belarusian Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich’s non-fiction work The Unwomanly Face of War. Alexievich was not credited in his book.
Hughes apologized to Alexievitch and his translators last week for using their words without acknowledgment “without realizing I was doing it”.
The book was subsequently removed from the long list of Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklinbefore writer Shannon Burns and academic Emmett Stinson tweeted more passages from The Dogs that appeared to have been borrowed without credit from classic texts such as The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina and All Quiet on the Western Front.
When the first revelations were published by the Guardian on June 9, White said she “stands firmly with the author”, acknowledging “how creativity can intertwine with the completion of a long work. I only regret not having recognized these borrowed descriptions.
In a post on Upswell’s website on June 17, the publisher appears to have changed its position.
“The events of the past fortnight in the media and amplified on social media have been personally distressing and concerning to my fledgling publishing venture,” she wrote, noting that she had worked with John Hughes on four books before The Dogs.
“Although I have read most of the books now revealed as being quoted without attribution in The Dogs, I honestly did not recognize them folded into a new text,” she said. “It’s a matter of trust, I think. I was offended when John Hughes wrote, in his rejoinder in the Guardian yesterday: “I wanted the relevant passages to be seen and recognized as in a collage.”
White added that she has “published many writers who use collage and tinkering and other approaches to weave in other voices and materials”, but they generally credit the original text. “I should have pushed John Hughes harder on his lack of a standard book acknowledgments mode where all credits to other writers (with permissions or otherwise), and acknowledgments to those closest and dearest, are kept,” she said.
“Having provided a note in this book with attribution would have been the only way to deal with it. I now recognize this as a breach of trust.
“Upswell relies on credibility and trust. It’s been damaged this fortnight, and I’m looking to reaffirm my position. I am currently seriously considering my options. It will take time to untangle the mess.
On Friday, Hughes said he was “deeply sorry” for putting White in a difficult situation.
“In my article on influences, I never intended to imply that I had knowingly passed off other writers’ words as my own,” Hughes said. “I was just trying to try to clarify as much as I could how something like this could happen to a writer of fiction.
“Terri-ann White has been a strong supporter for many years and is a person of great integrity.
“I am very distressed that his reputation may be tarnished in any way as a result of my actions. Small publishers are vitally important to our industry.
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