If someone accuses you of something untoward, try responding with, "Hey, I was just keeping it real." At least this is what 17-year-old Helene Hegemann has been doing—and quite effectively. Hegemann is already the toast of the town, having written and staged a play, and boasting a film-writing credit as well as a German bestseller, Axolotl Roadkill. But then one of those pesky bloggers had to point out parts of that bestseller were taken from another lesser known book, Strobo. And yet, as Nicholas Kulish pointed out last week, this hasn't disqualified Hegemann's work from competing for such prizes as the Leipzig Book Fair's top award (worth $20,000). In fact, the jury for that prize knew about the plagiarism charge before it declared her book a finalist.
Kulish quotes one juror, Volker Weidermann, who said, "Obviously, it isn’t completely clean but, for me, it doesn’t change my appraisal of the text.... I believe it’s part of the concept of the book.” Writes Kulish:
Although Ms. Hegemann has apologized for not being more open about her sources, she has also defended herself as the representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” said Ms. Hegemann in a statement released by her publisher after the scandal broke.
In other words, she was keeping it real.