Thursday, November 19, 2009


Ihimaera row should be taken seriously - CK Stead
NZ Herald, 10:04 AM Thursday Nov 19, 2009

CK Stead, (pic left, Sydney Morning Herald), says Auckland University needs to acknowledge the seriousness of what happened.

One of New Zealand's most respected authors has criticised Auckland University for minimising the seriousness of the Witi Ihimaera plagiarism controversy.

Ihimaera admitted tracts of his latest novel, The Trowenna Sea, had drawn on work from other writers without acknowledgement.
He said he was buying back all remaining stock of the novel and planned to republish it.
The edition would contain a new section by the author explaining the background and making full acknowledgement to writers whose work had been drawn on.
"I have taken this step to preserve the mana and integrity of the novel," Ihimaera said yesterday.
"Although I have already made the relevant apologies and have publicly undertaken to fully audit the book myself, it seemed appropriate to remove the first edition immediately and begin working on a corrected second edition."
Ihimaera is a professor of English and distinguished creative fellow in Maori literature at Auckland University.
University dean of arts, Associate Professor Jan Crosthwaite, said while concerning, Ihimaera's actions were not deliberate.
Ihimaera said the offending passages amounted to less than half a per cent of the novel, but respected author CK Stead said that was beside the point.
"It's really like saying 'well yes I did steal from 16 people but I only took a dollar from each'," he told Radio New Zealand.
Read the full piece at NZH online.

6 comments:

Peter Wells said...

Thank you CK Stead for saying something so obvious. The role of Auckland University in this is scandalous. They are the poltroons of pusillaniousness. The least they can do is say they are investigating the novel closely to establish how much is 'sampled' without creditation. But to wave it all aside is to embrace the most fatuous aspects of celebrity culture.
It interests me that there is a resounding silence from other authors on this subject.
'Cultural sensitivity' can become a gag. We all like and to a degree respect Witi for his past work. But the fact is as authors we all labour daily with the problem of 'making it new', creating something - it is very hard work - so this instance of 'sampling' cannot be brushed away as some small fault, which somehow happened without anyone knowing about it...or taking responsibillity - until - humiliatingly - the author in question is caught out.
I also have to say the acceptance of the 'laureate award' was a masterpiece of mistiming for this one-time diplomat.

Keri Hulme said...

Peter Wells raises an interesting point - "that there is a resounding silence from other authors on this subject."

This author has been vocaI about it(in print) - but not in mainstream media. Why? Because no journalist from MSM has bothered to follow-up by asking other writers what we think.

On one of the blogs of Public Address, there are pages of comment - most of it negative as far as Witi Ihimaera is concerned. There, I said that I despised plaigerists, that I despised the U of A for their bland exculpation, and I despised Penguin for
their lack of proper action.

Witi has written very good books in the past, and I admire his editorial work. None of that excuses the current self-caused difficulty he is in. For someone in his position in Academia to do what he has done is not a light matter to be obviated by apology and whining 'but it wasnt very much plaigerism...'

Tania Roxborogh said...

As someone new to writing historical fiction and therefore now heavily reliant on texts to help me understand 11th Century Scotland, I am surprised at the samples I have seen in the listener. To take someone else's words, similies, the tone even, is, just simply, as I tell my students, clear plagerism.

I use the texts that I read to help me colour in the background; to inform my imagination but it's MY story and I want to tell it MY way.

It is the same with my 'nod' to Shakespeare's themes and wisdom. I digest (via my characters) the profound things said in the plays and the sonnets in much the same way I do with scripture.

It is a regretable error but I am not inclined to throw stones either. I cringe everytime someone sends me an email telling me about the three typos in my latest novel.

Gerard Reid said...

Academic freedom carries with it a burden of academic responsibility. Witi has set students an appalling example. The University owes it to every student, particularly those caught out and punished for plaigirism, to take a very firm line. Professional staff must observe a higher standard than students and be held to it by their terms of employment.

Andrew said...

I think there is a world of difference between three typos and plagiarism, so I don't think it's a matter of throwing stones.

Anonymous said...

Witi has an agent. He/she/they have gone very quiet. Do they not feel some responsibility here?