Oh my, how potentially embarrassing. And just as he’s won the Nobel lit-prize, too:
A writer has accused Mario Vargas Llosa of having plagiarized his 1978 book, The Death of the Goat, in his recent work, The Feast of the Goat.
The Peruvian Nobel laureate admitted to having been “inspired” by the earlier book, but claims that “to say I plagiarized would require a dialectical leap. Plagiarism has criminal connotations.”
But Bernard Diederich, a former correspondent for Time magazine in Central America and the Caribbean, says that “Vargas Llosa plagiarized parts of my book, without giving me the credit”. The author, whose nationality is not given, said that his book was the first work to explain in detail the conspiracy which ended with the death of the Dominican dictator, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, in 1961.
“Vargas Llosa didn’t just copy elements of my book, but also an error,” Diederich says. “I will reveal it in court.”
A comparison of some paragraphs shows certain similarities. Vargas Llosa denies that they are the results of plagiarism. However, he does admit that his book was in part inspired by that of Diederich: “His book was, for me, a very rich source of information. It’s a magnificent work, but too little read.”
Translation mine. Linkage added.
Here’s a more scholarly look at the Vargas Llosa book in question. There are some quotes in Spanish which go untranslated; here’s the first. It’s Vargas Llosa talking about his writing process:
I was in the Dominican Republic [in 1975] for about eight months and heard a great many anecdotes on a topic which seemed inevitable in all the conversations of Dominicans: the Trujillo era. I also read some books on this personage, about the conspiracy that ended with him, about the vertiginous repression. And out of all that, what impressed me most was the conduct of personages like the general, Roman, important conspirators who caused the conspiracy to fail. Why did it fail? Because the principal conspirators were paralyzed by what they had done…Trujillo was still with them, alive even though his corpse was there.
So Vargas Llosa acknowledges reading “some books”, although he doesn’t say which ones. It’s very likely that Diederich’s work was among them, since it would have been directly relevant to his research, and it was the most important journalistic one on the subject of Rafael Trujillo.
As yet, nothing has been proved, and since I don’t have a copy of either book, I can’t say for certain whether I think this really is plagiarism or not. I will say, however, that I can hardly wait to see how this pans out in court. At the very least, maybe Diederich’s book will finally get the wider audience that even Vargas Llosa admits it deserves. If the similarity of the titles is anything to go by, this could get quite interesting.