Book: The remix
What do people think of this?
Helene Hegemann, a seventeen-year-old German writer, has “mixed” (her word) together a best-selling novel titled “Axolotl Roadkill.” According to an article in the Times, Hegemann lifted entire pages from a novel by a lesser known writer, and she doesn’t seem at all apologetic about doing so. “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” said Hegemann in response to accusations of plagiarism. The judges of the Leipzig Book Fair seem to agree with her, at least in principle: even after the author admitted to copying another writer’s work, “Axolotl Roadkill” remains a finalist for the Fair’s $20,000 prize in fiction.
The Leipzig committee’s decision not to strike the book from their finalist’s list, effectively endorsing, or at least approving, Hegemann’s actions, is either an alarming or a progressive response. The cultural-relativist argument is that Germany, specifically Berlin, is a hotbed of artistic mixing and mashing, sampling and re-sampling, and that Hegemann is simply employing these same tactics in her writing. If a d.j. can thread together twenty different songs and package the end product as her own, why can’t a writer? This seems to be the question Hegemann is using as a defense. Original content, then, becomes subordinate to context, meaning that as long as a newer, larger work is being created, portions of prior works are fair game.