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Wednesday 21 December 2011

Words Beginning with P, like Prozac, Piracy, Plagiarism, Planet and Publicity

This morning The Guardian reports what El Pais reported yesterday and some have tweeted: Spanish novelist stops writing novels because of piracy.

The Spanish have an unenviable record as some of the world’s leading download pirates. Behind this item of news is a recent judgement in which a young software designer called Pablo Soto was absolved in a trial brought by various publishers of music, film and books. Indeed the publishers had to pay all the costs. They have appealed.

But this is also a personal story. Lucia Etxebarria (1966) is the novelist involved. She came to fame in 1997 with a book called 'Amor, Curiosidad, Prozac y Dudas'. (Love, Curiosity, Prozac and Doubts).

By using Prozac in the title she was, of course, at least alluding to Elizabeth Wurzel’s 1994 novel 'Prozac Nation'.

According to the magazine Interviu, she did more than allude. In 2001 the magazine accused her of plagiarism in that book and in Estacion de Infierno where she had borrowed from Spanish poet Antonio Colina. In 2003, a court ruled that the magazine had reported ‘what was true'.

In 2006 Lucia settled out of court with the psychologist Jorge Castello who claimed she had used material from an article of his.

None of this changes that she does have talents, has been a considerable seller, has an honorary degree from the University of Aberdeen and, among other prizes, won the Premio Planeta in 2004. I have blogged on this ‘prize’ before. It is in fact an advance and is awarded in time for Christmas – it has been a tradition for years in Spain to give the winner as a present, usually to fathers. ‘Better than socks’ is the phrase.

What is interesting is the passions Lucia can raise. I checked on Wikipedia before writing this. The English version was temporariy nobbled. What in Spanish is 'escritor' (writer) was rendered as ‘plagiarist’ in English. She has been verbally assaulted by many pirates on the social networks. The vehemence and the hate are impressive.

The Spanish like to think their Indignados started the Occupy movement. Her critics are more than indignant. There are some as dumb as the girls in last summer’s English riots who thought small shopkeepers were ‘rich’. Others appear to be weighed down by the Generation X factor – there but for the cruelties of fate go I. Somewhere between stalkers and trolls they behave as if they own her.

But I suspect some of them feel betrayed, saw her as leading the way. No, I don’t think this is a novelist being hoist on her own petard. Yes, it appears her latest book (not in ebook) is not selling as well as previous productions. Actually that is a pretty common case. Spain has just acquired and there are signs that what has taken years in other countries is being implemented very fast. Javier Marias mentioned that a worried bookseller had told him that he had shifted just 12 copies of his best-selling novelist in 14 days.

So this is 'un toque de atencion'. A kind of ‘pay attention’. It’s about publicity more than piracy.

This blog is hardly Christmassy but I suppose it adds up to a stocking filler.

Have a Happy Christmas everyone!

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