In what the New York Times is calling “a literary imbroglio,” Ian McEwan’s sources and inspirations for his bestselling novel Atonement have come under close media scrutiny. The bloggers are all over this one, and McEwan himself has written in his own defence at The Guardian.
The gist is this: McEwan read a memoir, written by romance novelist Lucilla Andrews, about her work as a nurse during the Second World War. McEwan himself drew attention to Andrews’ book by listing it in his acknowledgements to Atonement. British journalist Julie Langdon drew attention to the similarities between the two books in The Mail on Sunday, and the brouhaha has grown from there.
Andrews, who recently passed away, is being represented in this discussion by her former agent, who told the Times that “‘it was discourteous from one author to another’ for Mr. McEwan to have echoed Ms. Andrews’s wording so closely.”
But then, in the same Times article, Jenny Haldon, chairwoman of Britain’s Romantic Novelists’ Association, is quoted as saying, of Andrews, “I think it’s quite clear her response [to McEwan’s borrowings] was ‘I don’t give a damn.'”
As if this weren’t enough kindling for the plagiarism fire, Slate ran a story last week on the threat Google Book Search poses to plagiarists — and not only of the living variety.