Sunday, November 22, 2009


Whatever the rights and worngs of this sad affair one can't but help feel sorry for Ihimaera, one of our most feted writers, who must feel as if the sharks are circling him. As more and more academics weigh into the matter, from both New Zealand and abroad, the media are certainly having a field day, fuelling the issue for all its worth.

The NZ Listener, who originally revealed 16 non-attributed passages of text in their issue of November 14, have again in the issue of November 28, on sale tomorrow, given the story major treatment with a double page spread near the front of the magazine. The article by Joanne Black gives much space to Professor Margaret Soltan at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. who on her blog has taken a swipe not just at the author but at the University of Auckland as well. Her blog can be found at - One imagines she will be having a record number of visitors to her site this week.
The Listener also quotes Dr.Mike Reddy of the University of Wales and Geoff Walker of Penguin Books. Both Soltan and Reddy have particualr interest in plagiarism.

Joining in the fray at the Sunday Star Times today are writers Rosemary McLeod and Steve Braunias.
One wonders who will be next!

3 comments: said...

I'm a fan of Rosemary and Steve, but on this occasion Steve has been a tad cruel and although i like what Rosemary has written and agree, she has been a tad patronising - and the truth is, that there is no right response to all of this. Airbrushing it because we all love Witi (and we do), is not right, and sharks circling is awful also - and we get into the "Tall Poppy" thingee... and then there are blogs where people are saying "but for the grace of God..." because as writers we are all terrified of being caught accidently "lifting" someone's idea, phrase, words, etc... and I recall a revered international historical writer Rose Tremain placing a vole in NZ (but because she is such a good writer, it didn't it?).
Here's what I think - any historical writer dreads getting facts wrong, even when writing fiction - so it's natural that research is a huge part of the process - is it better to write a faulty piece of fabulous fiction (grand story with history slightly muddled or inaccurate) or a huge accurate fictional tome that pays homage to everyone and loses it's magic - poor Witi has attempted to do right on both counts and failed - and then too Nicky Caro, another of our icon's has recently "failed" but better to have tried than to be sitting on the sideline having never tried...
and the academic debate is reasonable and perhaps Witi is now a trail blazer for this tricky new world we enter with digital print and the shrinking world - perhaps some of our most revered "Classics" might have been sprung if the written word had been more transportable. But, as someone on a blog said (Oh gosh, am I lifting his words?) - 'aint it great that instead of some sporting fracau, NZ literature is at the forefront of the news... yay - a shame for Witi - but it means we all care, and that it matters to us (Witi, literature, the whole shebang). said...

Oh God, at the risk of verbosity (well, I'm known for it), I have to add I do not condone plagiarism and wish Witi had written a grand yarn with a whole lot of voles instead of the lifted passages.

Charlie said...

He (Witi)should not be spared just because he is who he is. I think his writing in the past has been brilliant but I think for him to have any credibility he should resign and give the $50K back. As a student currently writing a PhD I have bent over backwards to ensure that I have sourced and acknowledged all those that I have quoted. The fact that Witi failed to do this on at least 16 occasions is absolutely reprehensible and the University needs to take the type of action it would take against any other offender in its system. This is only fair to those students who have been caught in the past and to those who will be caught in the future. To not take this action would give those students legitimate grounds for a grievance against the University.