A top French author has admitted cutting and pasting chunks of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia into his books.
But, according to the Independent, Michel Houellebecq insists half inching things like the description of mating flies was not plagiarism. Houellebecq said that it could be an experimental form of literature. "Even a form of "beauty".
The writer was apparently furious when the French press waded into him for lifting passages of his latest book from Wikipedia.fr. They argued that Houellebecq, should know better as he is the most successful French novelist outside France.
Houellebecq does not deny that that he did nick technical descriptions from the anonymous compilers of Wikipedia. A couple of passages in his acclaimed new novel La Carte et le Territoire were lifted verbatim. They include a description of how flies have sex.
He said that his whole style was based on borrowing banal and technical descriptions from everyday life and weaving them into something artistic. Houellebecq said that if people really think that this is plagiarism, they haven't got the first notion of what literature is.
Using real documents and fiction, has been used by many authors. He was influenced by Georges Perec and Jorge Luis Borges. Houellebecq told a radio interviewer that taking passages word for word was not stealing so long as the motives were to recycle them for artistic purposes. "I hope that this contributes to the beauty of my books, using this kind of material," he said.
Quite how an article which was probably edited by a fake penis expert, or someone who faked their doctorate, could be considered beauty is anyone's guess. Still the ability of Wackipedia to make people who it does not think are important disappear would make a good detective novel.
Houellebecq has been accused of racism, sexism and obscenity. This last book La Carte et le Territoire was acclaimed as a "work of genius" by the French newspaper Libération.