Unduly battered Kaavya can still get a better life

Written by YRK Reddy | Updated: May 13 2006, 05:30am hrs
It was doubtless Kaavyas fault to have supplied enough cause to the media to insinuate that she is the typical cheat. But does she, in her teens, deserve such relentless accusations without being given the pardon she may deserve The aggrieved authors and the publishing house, that have exhibited such a hawkish stance instead of accepting an apology and a compromise from Kaavya, must know that they may not necessarily be white as lilies.

A little bit of research will reveal that plagiarism can be deliberate as well as accidental and that anyone can be crucified with devoted probing. Famous people accused of plagiarism include Martin Luther King Jr, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Benjamin Franklin, TS Eliot and the likes. In Kaavyas case, even if it was indeed deliberate, the role of the publishing firm is still unclear, as also that of the reviewers of the publishers.

Deliberate plagiarism is very much around and thriving in literary, journalistic and academic circles, amply aided by the internet. With the exponential growth of readership and demand for new stories, plots, music, news, entertainment and art, there is obviously a great amount of mix n match and repackaging.

There are cross-overs from one language to the other, one field or context to another and one period to another. Even in the management world, a whole lot of books on leadership and competition are such. Many are a revival of older ideas in new settings and are popular for their contextual examples rather than uniqueness of ideas.

Talk on metrics, performance management systems and much of other management mumbo-jumbo has traces of others ideas cleverly repackaged, with modern idiom. (A model I had published over 25 years ago in the UK resurfaced in a recent book from the US without even a referencepresumably, it was not deliberate). Several speeches of our political and corporate leaders at their shareholders meetings will show some resemblance to others works that hardly get mentioned. We do not painstakingly crucify all of them for mere plagiarism, unless it is a major infringement of copyright.

Instances of plagiarism show it can be either deliberate or accidental
Famous people like Benjamin Franklin, TS Eliot, etc were accused of it
Psychology explains accidental plagiarism, so why not forgive Kaavya
There is a psychological explanation for accidental plagiarismand one may give the benefit of doubt to Kaavyas statement that she may have internalised what she had read closely. Carl Jung had reportedly described the phenomenon in his Man and His Symbols as cryptomnesia. Wikipedia calls this concealed recollection. Carl Jung had cited instances of musicians, writers, scientists who believe that they have not read anothers work despite close similarities. This happens when the author has internalised much of a plot or a passage or a strain of music unconsciously until it has been shown to him or her.

Words, cliches, thoughts, musical strains, cinematic plots are all constantly passing through writers, scientists, musicians, lyricists and painters one way or the other. We often find similarities and cannot say if they were accidental or deliberate. Wikipedia cites interesting examples from Carl Jung. Friedrich Nietzsches Thus Spake Zarathustra is said to contain, word for word, a passage from a book published five decades earlierhis sister remembered, though he didnt, that he had studied the book as an 11-year-old.

Vladimir Nabokov is another example of cryptomnesia, as his novel, Lolita, was written about 35 years earlier as a short story and available freely when he was young. German chemist Friedrich August Kekule dreamt of a snake with its tail in its mouth, which led to his thinking of a closed carbon ring and the discovery of benzene. Such a conception, known as Ouroboros, has been in existence in Greek manuscripts and pictures from the third century BC.

While speaking about The New York Times former reporter Jayson Blairs string of plagiarism and fabrication, the dean of the college where he studied had concluded: Yet, I also remind myself that this story is about not only a scandal but a human being. I sincerely hope Jayson can find a way to face up to what he has done, learn from it and begin reassembling the pieces of his life. Kaavya also deserves a kinder view which can support her true talent better, especially considering her age. And she should take heart, reorganise herself and sublimate to write better!