26 December 2008

re-writing wikipedia

michael stavaric, who was part of the FM4 Wortlaut jury 2008 and read with me at the prosafestival in innsbruck, was panned by DIE ZEIT for allegedly having copied wide parts of his new book 'magma' from wikipedia and other sources like the german encyclopedia.

i haven't read the book, of course, but i would like to take up the cudgels for michael to an extent. i mean, if it weren't for sites like wikipedia, a poem like gagarin (below) would have been written differently - patchier - or maybe even not at all. gagarin is a good example because i not only used knowledge i gained from the wiki article, but also some of the wording they used. like unglückliche verkettung verhängnisvoller umstände that i left inverted to mark the quotation. however, i am not stupid enough to think that you guys out there wouldn't notice. i know that you know that every good author reads up on his material. it does get problematic, of course, where no new spin or extra meaning is added. yet copying stuff word by word from an open source... can't be forbidden. i'm not saying it should be done, i'm just saying i can't be forbidden and should probably be regarded as a characteristic of the writings of our time. i'm pretty sure that earlier on in history, critics just had a harder time figuring out what sources novelists used as they weren't as easily accesible as they are nowadays - both online and in hard copy; if i'm not mistaken, books were never as cheap as they are today (in relative terms).

i haven't spoken to michael about this, but i'm thinking that he must have been aware of the simplicity with which this aspect of his writing technique could be 'uncovered'. just as it should have been clear to christian weiss of DIE ZEIT that he was going to find what he was looking for over at wikipedia and in the encyclopedia, because that's where authors gather information. in my opinion, it really all depends on what one makes of that.

here's a far more favourable recension of 'magma' by beate tröger of the FAZ, who is probably older than christian weiss and less internet-savvy. or maybe she just didn't care, because she liked michael's style so much.

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