Charles Earland – Intergalactic Love Song, off l’album Odyssey, del 1976. Ho impiegato settimane a ricordare titolo e autore di questo brano che, finalmente, ieri notte mi è venuto in mente e sembra confermare un sospetto di plagio. Il brano originale che me lo ricorda è di Donald Byrd, Flight time, del 1973. Il pezzo di Earland ne è forse il rifacimento? Gli accordi iniziali di Intergalactic Love song sembrano ricordare quelli di Flight time e confermare il sospetto.
Ancora, qualche mese fa mi è capitato leggere un post su ‘You are not so smart‘, comparso poi in un altro blog, di un altro blogger americano, che si è indebitamente impossessato dell’articolo postandolo nel proprio blog e spacciandolo per proprio (il pezzo originale:The Overjustification Effect « You Are Not So Smart).
Il plagio, è il caso di dirlo, non è una novità; quell’articolo comparso a pagina 52 del New Yorker di febbraio,’The Plagiarist’s Tale‘ (Quentin Rowan, a.k.a. Q. R. Markham, Plagiarism Addict : The New Yorker, da me citato nel pezzo su Beckett della settimana scorsa), racconta appunto di questo scrittore esordiente americano, Quentin Rowan, cui romanzo ‘Assassin of Secrets’ è stato ritirato dal mercato perchè contenente una copiosa riproduzione di paragrafi ‘ritagliati’ da altri romanzi e indebitamente ‘incollati’ nel proprio. Non conoscessimo certe dinamiche che ruotano intorno al settore editoriale, verrebbe da chiedersi com’è possibile nessuno, prima di pubblicarlo, si sia accorto del plagio; persino la critica aveva annunciato il romanzo come un ‘debutto sfavillante’ nel genere noir. Un classico delle bufale, in poche parole. Che si sia trattato di una trovata pubblicitaria soltanto?
‘Originality is a relative concept in literature. As writers from T. S. Eliot to Harold Bloom have pointed out, ideas are doomed to be rehashed. This wasn’t always regarded as a problem. Roman writers subscribed to the idea of imitatio: they viewed their role as emulating and reworking earlier masterpieces. It wasn’t until the Romantic era, which introduced the notion of the author as solitary genius, that originality came to be viewed as the paramount literary virtue. Plagiarism was and remains a murky offense, ‘best understood not as a sharply defined operation, like beheading, but as a whole range of activities, more like cooking,’ the English professor James R. Kincaid wrote in this magazine in 1977. Imagine a scale on one end of which are authors who poach plot ideas (Shakespeare stealing from Plutarch) and on the other are those who copy passages word for word: Jacob Epstein, who cribbed parts of his novel ‘Wild Oats’ from Martin Amis’s ‘The Rachel Papers“; the Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan, whose novel plagiarized chick lit.
Roman’s method, though- constructing his work almost entirely from other people’s sentence and paragraphs- makes his book a singular literary artifact, a ‘literal mashup’.
(The New Yorker, Feb.12 & 20, 2012)
Questa del literal mashup, però, mi è sembrata un’idea niente male che mi ha dato modo di riflettere e ingegnarmi in un esperimento concettuale, un ‘finto romanzo’ dei romanzi, che ho intenzione di ricavare, quindi ‘scrivere’, facendo esattamente copia e incolla dai classici della letteratura internazionale. Niente di originale, mi rendo conto. Quello che però potrebbe risultare interessante, è l’esito. Voglio vedere dove porta, e a che porta. E’ chiaro sarà difficile far coincidere tutti i pezzi insieme secondo un principio di armonia e fluidità del testo, ma ho pensato interessante sovvertire le trame dei romanzi, ri-adattare gli spazi, scombinare le strutture, scardinare esiti e fini, smantellare interi impianti narrativi, per crearne uno ‘nuovo’, un fake, che ricicla, contiene, si riproduce all’infinito, offre infinite possibilità di trama, ed ha forma e specificità propria; un ‘romanzo’ che ha un inizio, una continuità, ma non una fine. Fosse questo fake sperimentale una torre e un puzzle, per ricordare Perec, e i tasselli di questo immenso puzzle i classici della letteratura, che via via andrò ad aggiungere come mattoni perchè la storia prenda vita e presenti un senso ragionevolmente compiuto (delle volte astratto, surreale, assurdo).
Non sono sicura di poter utilizzare il materiale di cui avrò bisogno, è probabile l’iniziativa viola certi diritti d’autore, tuttavia mi sono detta questo fake è solo un esperimento e un passatempo, che non verrà pubblicato e potrebbe offrire tanti spunti di riflessione oltre che di approfondimento alle letture citate. Tengo a ribadire quest’idea non ha nessun fine ma quello di distrarre, divertire, e in qualche modo permettermi di sperimentare, esplorare, e giocare con la letteratura, perchè non rimanga ‘muta’ e scritta soltanto ma venga condivisa in maniera attiva. Se tuttavia qualcuno di voi ritenesse ‘illegale’, ‘immorale’ o ‘offensivo’ quanto creato, si senta libero di farmelo presente e discuterne.
Mi rendo conto sarebbe bello citare i romanzi in italiano, ma ho qui soltanto libri in inglese, dunque non posso che utilizzare quelli.
Ho pensato intitolare il ‘romanzo’: ‘The Experimental Plagiarism. A fake novel of real novels’, e di iniziarlo con una prima sentenza tratta dal Romanzo dei Romanzi, Anna Karenina, di Tolstoj. Ho poi ritagliato una parte tratta da un racconto breve, [2], ‘The third son’, di Andrey Platonovich Platonov (contenuto in Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida, che sto leggendo), e continuato il capitolo aggiungendo:
[3] una parte tratta da ‘Sinbad the Sailor‘, di Yuri Vasilyevich Buida (che è vero, non è un classico, ma da cui ho ritagliato appena tre linee soltanto)
[4] la parte introduttiva di ‘Life A User’s manual’, di Georges Perec, e infine [5] un’ultima parte tratta dall’inizio de ‘The Secret House’, di Edgar Wallace.
Questo quello che ne è venuto fuori.

____THE EXPERIMENTAL PLAGIARISM. A FAKE NOVEL OF REAL NOVELS___

PREFACE
‘The Experimental Plagiarism. A fake novel of real novels’, is an experimental and conceptual literary mess which aims to create a fake novel of real novels collected in one and kept together by a more or less cohesive -sometimes senseless, surreal, absurd – plot created by cutting and pasting paragraphs, short sentences, quotes, taken from classics of world literature and redirected into a text that contains them all but develops in its own way and direction. In a few words, ‘The Experimental Plagiarism. A fake novel of real novels’, is a killtime (and well, a killnovels as well) especially created for amusement only whom contents will not be published and aims are to cite, share and enjoy literature in a ‘creative’ and ‘experimental’ way.
Each paragraph, short sentence, quote, taken from a novel won’t be manipulated in any way and I’ll make sure to report name of the author, title of the book and date of publishing (when known).
To create the first chapter, I used:
[1] the first sentence taken from ‘Anna Karenina‘, by Lev Tolstoy, 1877
[2] a part taken from ‘The third son‘, by Andrey Platonovich Platonov
[3] a part taken from ‘Sinbad the Sailor’, by Yuri Vasilyevich Buida (I know, that’s not a classic, but it made sense and took 3 lines only)
[4] a part taken from ‘Life A User’s manual’, by Georges Perec, 1978
[5] a part taken from ‘The Secret House’, by Edgar Wallace, 1917
So here it goes, hope you enjoy it

__________________________CHAPTER 1_________________________________

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
Anna Karenina, Lev Tolstoy

[2] An old woman died in a provincial town. Her husband, a seventy-year-old retired worker, went to the telegraph office and handed in six telegrams for different regions and republics, with the unvarying words: MOTHER DEAD COME HOME FATHER.
The elderly clerk took a long time doing the sums, kept makin mistakes, and wrote out the receipts and stamped them with trembling hands. The old man looked meekly at her through the wooden hatch; his eyes were red and he was absent- mindedly thinking something, trying to distract grief from his heart. It seemed to him that the woman, also had a broken heart and a soul now confused for ever- perhaps she was a widow or a wife who had been cruelly abandoned.
And so here she was, muddling money, losing her memory and attentiveness; even for ordinary, straightforward labour, people need to have inner happiness.
After sending off the telegrams, the old father went back home; he sat on a stool by a long table, at the cold feet oh his dead wife, smoked, whispered sad words, watched the solitary life of a grey bird hopping from perch to perch in its cage, sometimes cried quietly to himself and then calmed down, wound up his pocket watch, glanced now and again through the window, beyond which, out in nature, the weather kept changing- leaves were falling, along with flakes of wet tired snow, then there was rain, then a late sun shone, with no warmth, like a star – and the old man waited for his sons.
The eldest son arrived by plane the very next day. The other five sons all gathered within two more days.
One of them, the third son, came with his daughter, a six year old who had never seen her grandmother.
The mother had been waiting on the table for more than three days, but her body did not smell of death, so neat and clean had it been rendered by illness and dry exhaustion; after giving plentiful and healthy life to her sons, the old woman had kept a small, miserly body for herself and had tried for a long time to preserve it, if only in the most pitiful state, so that she could love her children and be proud of them- until she died.
The huge men, aged from twenty to forty, stood in silence round the coffin of the table. There were six of them – seven including the father, who was smaller than even his very youngest son, and weaker too. In his arms he held his granddaughter, who was screeming up her eyes from fear of a dead old woman she had never met and whose white unblinking eyes could just see her from beneath their half- closed lids.
The sons silently wept occasional slow tears, twisting their faces in order to bear grief without a sound. The father was no longer crying; he had cried himself out alone, before the others, and now, with secret excitement and an out-of-place joy, he was looking at his sturdy band of sons. Two of them were sailors – captain of ships; one was an actor from Moscow; the one with the daughter was a physicist and a Party member; the youngest was studying to be an agronomist; and the oldest was a head engineer in an aeroplane factory and wore on his chest a medal for honourable labour. All six of them – seven including the father- were silent around the dead mother and mourned her without a word, hiding from one another their despair, their memories of childhood and of love’s departed happiness, which had sprung up continually, making no demands, in their mother’s heart and which had always found them – even across thousands of miles- and they had sensed it constantly and instinctively and this had made them stronger and they had been successful in life more boldly. Now their mother had turned into a corpse; she could no longer love anyone and was lying there like an indifferent stranger, an old woman who had nothing to do with them.
Each of her sons felt lonely and frightened now, as if somewhere in the darkness a lamp had been burning on the windowsill of an old house far from anywhere, and the lamp had lit up the night, the flying beetles, the blue grass, the swarms of midges in the air- an entire childhood world abandoned by those who had been born there; the doors of that house had never locked, so that those who went out could always go back, but no one had gone back. And now it was as of the light had been extinguished in that night window, and reality had turned into memory.
[3] Before dying, Katerina Ivanovna Momotova sent for Doctor Sheberstov, who’d treated her all her life and had been pensioned off a long ago. She handed him the key to her little house and a scrap of paper folded in four, asking him to burn it along with all the others.
‘They are at home’, she explained in embarrassment.’But please don’t tell anyone. I’d have done it myself, only you see how it’s all turned out…’
[4] Yes, it could begin this way, right here, just like that, in a rather slow and ponderous way, in this neutral place that belongs to all and to none, where people pass by almost without seeing each other, where the life of the building regularly and distantly resounds. What happens behind the flats’ heavy doors can most often be perceived only through those fragmented echoes, those splinters, remnants, shadows, those first moves or incidents or accidents that happen in what are called the ‘common areas’, soft little sounds damped by the red woollen carpet, embryos of communal life which never go further than the landing.The inhabitants of a single building live a few inches from each other, they are separated by a mere partition wall, they share the same spaces repeated along corridor, they perform the same movements at the same times, turning on a tap, flushing the water closet, switching on a light, laying the table, a few dozen simultaneous existences repeated from storey to storey, from building to building, from street to street. They entrench themselves in their domestic dwelling space- since that is what it is called – and they would prefer nothing to emerge from it; but the little they do let out – the dog on a lead, the child off to fetch the bread, someone brought back, someone sent away- comes out by way of the landing.
For all that passes, passes by the stairs, and all that comes, comes by the stairs: letters, announcements of births, marriages, and deaths, forniture brought in or taken out by removers, the doctor called in an emergency, the traveler returning from a long voyage. It’s because of that that the staircase remains an anonymous, cold, and almost hostile place. In old buildings there used to be stone steps, wrought – iron handrails, sculptures, lamp- holders, sometimes a bench to allow old folk to rest between floors. In modern buildings there are lifts with walls covered in would- be obscene graffiti, and so- called ‘emergency’ staircases in unrendered concrete, dirty and echoing. In this block of flats, where there is an old lift almost always out of order, the staircase is an old-fashioned place of questionable cleanliness, which declines in terms of middle-class respectability as it rises from floor to floor: two thickness of carpet as far as the third floor, thereafter only one, and none at all for the two attic floors.
[5] A man stood irresolutely before the imposing portals of Cainbury House, a large office building let out to numerous small tenants, and harbouring, as the indicator on the tiled wall of the vestibule testified, some thirty different professions. The man was evidently poor, for his clothes were shabby and his boots were down at heel. He was as evidently a foreigner. His clean-shaven eagle face was sallow, his eyes were dark, his eyebrows black and straight.
He passed up the few steps into the hall and stood thoughtfully before the indicator. Presently he found what he wanted. At the very top of the list and amongst the crowded denizens of the fifth floor was a slip inscribed:
“THE GOSSIP’S CORNER”
He took from his waistcoat pocket a newspaper cutting and compared the two then stepped briskly, almost jauntily, into the hall, as though all his doubts and uncertainties had vanished, and waited for the elevator. His coat was buttoned tightly, his collar was frayed, his shirt had seen the greater part of a week’s service, the Derby hat on his head had undergone extensive renovations, and a close observer would have noticed that his gloves were odd ones.
He walked into the lift and said, “Fifth floor,” with a slight foreign accent.
He was whirled up, the lift doors clanged open and the grimy finger of the elevator boy indicated the office. Again the man hesitated, examining the door carefully. The upper half was of toughened glass and bore the simple inscription:
“THE GOSSIP’S CORNER.
KNOCK.”
Obediently the stranger knocked and the door opened through an invisible agent, much to the man’s surprise, though there was nothing more magical about the phenomenon than there is about any electrically controlled office door.
He found himself in a room sparsely furnished with a table, a chair and a few copies of papers. An old school map of England hung on one wall and a Landseer engraving on the other. At the farthermost end of the room was another door, and to this he gravitated and again, after a moment’s hesitation, he knocked.
“Come in,” said a voice.
He entered cautiously.
The room was larger and was comfortably furnished. There were shaded electric lamps on either side of the big carved oak writing-table. One of the walls was covered with books, and the litter of proofs upon the table suggested that this was the sanctorum.
But the most remarkable feature of the room was the man who sat at the desk. He was a man solidly built and, by his voice, of middle age. His face the new-comer could not see and for excellent reason. It was hidden behind a veil of fine silk net which had been adjusted over the head like a loose bag and tightened under the chin.
The man at the table chuckled when he saw the other’s surprise.
“Sit down,” he said–he spoke in French–“and don’t, I beg of you, be alarmed.”
“Monsieur,” said the new-comer easily, “be assured that I am not alarmed. In this world nothing has ever alarmed me except my own distressing poverty and the prospect of dying poor.”
The veiled figure said nothing for a while.
“You have come in answer to my advertisement,” he said after a long pause.
The other bowed.
“You require an assistant, Monsieur,” said the new-comer, “discreet, with a knowledge of foreign languages and poor. I fulfill all those requirements,” he went on calmly; “had you also added, of an adventurous disposition, with few if any scruples, it would have been equally descriptive.”
The stranger felt that the man at the desk was looking at him, though he could not see his eyes. It must have been a long and careful scrutiny, for presently the advertiser said gruffly:
“I think you’ll do.”
“Exactly,” said the new-comer with cool assurance; “and now it is for you, dear Monsieur, to satisfy me that you also will do. You will have observed that there are two parties to every bargain. First of all, my duties?”
The man in the chair leant back and thrust his hands into his pockets.
“I am the editor of a little paper which circulates exclusively amongst the servants of the upper classes,” he said. “I receive from time to time interesting communications concerning the aristocracy and gentry of this country, written by hysterical French maids and revengeful Italian valets. I am not a good linguist, and I feel that there is much in these epistles which I miss and which I should not miss.”
The new-comer nodded.
“I therefore want somebody of discretion who will deal with my foreign correspondence, make a fair copy in English and summarize the complaints which these good people make. You quite understand,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders, “that mankind is not perfect, less perfect is womankind, and least perfect is that section of mankind which employs servants. They usually have stories to tell not greatly to their masters’ credit, not nice stories, you understand, my dear friend. By the way, what is your name?”
The stranger hesitated.

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