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In defence of research and borrowing

An impressive constellation of literary stars has come to the defence of British author Ian McEwan, who was accused by a writer for The Daily Mail of plagiarizing the memoir of romance novelist Lucilla Andrews, who died in October, in his novel Atonement.

Letters from Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Updike, Zadie Smith, Martin Amis, and even the reclusive Thomas Pynchon were published in The Daily Telegraph. “Most of the writers said that they were intimately familiar with what Mr. McEwan had done, having done the same thing themselves,” an article in The New York Times reports. There is a difference between plagiarism and using other works for research and historical information, the writers argue.

If it is sufficient to point to a simultaneity of events to prove plagiarism, then we are all plagiarists, and Shakespeare is in big trouble from Petrarch, and Tolstoy stole the material for ‘War and Peace,’ ” wrote the Australian writer Thomas Keneally, the author of “Schindler’s List.”

McEwan has freely acknowledged using Ms. Andrews’s book for its period detail, but has pointed out that he “had gone out of his way to praise her publicly,” The New York Times article said.

He seems to have the support of the London literati. Erica Wagner, literary editor of The Times of London was quoted saying, “I thought, well, we have come to a pretty pass where an author like Ian McEwan has to write on the front page of The Guardian explaining what research is.”

Related links:
Click here forThe New York Times article