Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to BooksLIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Books LIVE

Argentine Author Faces Prison Sentence for “Plagiarising” Borges in Literary Experiment

The AlephnullArgentine novelist, poet and university lecturer Pablo Katchadjian faces up to six years in prison, after his literary experiment involving Jorge Luis Borges’ The Aleph.

The lawsuit was initiated by Maria Kodama, Borges’ widow and guardian of the Borgesian literary estate.

Almost 3 000 writers, intellectuals and other supporters have signed an open letter protesting the prosecution of Katchadjian, and a public demonstration is due to take place tonight (3 July 2015), at the National Library in Buenos Aires, which Borges ran from 1955-73.

The Guardian explains the irony of the case:

In the short story Pierre Menard: Author of Quixote, Jorge Luis Borges writes of an author’s quest to reproduce Cervantes’ masterpiece, word by word, comma after comma. “Pierre Menard did not want to compose another Quixote, which surely is easy enough – he wanted to compose the Quixote,” Borges writes.

More likely than not to be aware of this Borgesian playfulness, Argentine author Pablo Katchadjian decided in 2009 to remix one of Borges’s most renowned short stories The Aleph, keeping the original text but adding a considerable amount of his own writing. The result was the short experimental book called El Aleph engordado (The Fattened Aleph), published by a small underground press in a short run of 300 copies. An unfortunate consequence of Katchadjian’s literary experiments is an ongoing lawsuit initiated in 2011 by Maria Kodama, Borges’s widow and fervent guardian of his literary estate.

Press release:

Argentine novelist, poet and university lecturer Pablo Katchadjian is being prosecuted for “intellectual property fraud” on the basis of his 2009 short experimental book El Aleph Engordado (The Fattened Aleph). The criminal lawsuit has been brought by Maria Kodama, widow of the Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges and guardian of the Borgesian literary estate. Katchadjian’s assets have been frozen and he could face up to six years in prison if found guilty.

PEN International believes that the criminal prosecution of Katchadjian is a disproportionate reaction to a literary experiment and is calling for the criminal charges against him to be dropped.


Katchadjian (born 1977) is the critically acclaimed author of 10 books, including the novels Gracias (Thanks), La libertad total (Total Freedom) and Qué hacer (What to do – an English translation of which is reportedly forthcoming from Dalkey Archive, USA). His work has been translated into English, French and Hebrew. An opera adaptation of La libertad total was reportedly performed in Buenos Aires in 2014. Katchadjian is also a lecturer at the social sciences faculty of the University of Buenos Aires.

The lawsuit against Katchadjian was brought in 2011 on the basis that El Aleph Engordado – which takes Borges’ well known short story El Aleph and “fattens” it by adding some 5,600 words of his own to Borges’ original 4,000 – amounted to plagiarism. The charges are based on an archaic intellectual property law (Law 11.723 of 1933, Article 71), which along with the Argentine Penal Code (Article 172), establishes that those found guilty of such fraud can face between one month and six years’ imprisonment.

El Aleph Engordado was published in 2009 by Imprenta Argentina de Poesía, a small independent press, in a print run of 200 copies, most of which were reportedly given away to friends. In a postscript to El Aleph Engordado dated 1 November 2008, Katchadjian makes it clear that the preceding text is his expansion of Borges’ El Aleph. According to Katchadjian, the book was out of print well before the lawsuit was filed and there was never any intention to reprint it; nor was there an official digital edition. There was therefore no intention on his part to pass Borges’ text off as his own or, apparently, to make a profit.

The lawsuit against Katchadjian was initially dismissed by a court of first instance after his lawyer, Ricardo Straface, also a writer, successfully argued that his work was a “literary experiment” and that there can only be “intellectual property fraud” if the author has been deceitful. At this point the Attorney General’s office (Ministerio Público) withdrew from the case, indicating that it did not believe that a crime had been committed. The ruling was confirmed on appeal.

However, Kodama took the case to a higher (appellate) court, which was reportedly not convinced that Katchadjian had differentiated the original text from his own additions, and ordered the first instance court to review its decision. (In the postscript to El Aleph Engordado, Katchadjian clarifies that: “Although I didn’t try to hide behind Borges’ style, nor did I write with the intention of making myself too visible. It seems to me that the best moments are those where you don’t know for sure what belong to whom.”)

Compelled by the ruling of the appellate court, on 18 June 2015, Katchadjian was formally charged with “intellectual property fraud” by the same judge who had originally dismissed the case. The appeals court also froze his assets, imposing an 80,000 peso (c. US$8,800) embargo on his property. Katchadjian’s lawyer has appealed the decision.

Almost 3,000 writers, intellectuals and other supporters from Argentina and beyond have signed an open letter protesting the prosecution of Katchadjian, including César Aira and Carlos Gamerro. A public demonstration is due to take place tonight (3 July 2015), at the National Library in Buenos Aires – of which Borges was director from 1955-73.

Although the lawsuit against Katchadjian is not thought to be politically motivated, a conviction would have far-reaching implications for literary freedom and creativity in Argentina and beyond. According to an article in the UK Guardian by the Argentine writer and critic Fernando Sdrigotti, “the real issue in the Katchadjian case is not literary integrity but financial value, and it is not about protecting Borges’s oeuvre, as the plaintiff claims.” Sdrigotti adds: “it seems unlikely that Katchadjian will actually end up in prison, but the implications of taking writers to court over creative acts are chilling.”

Katchadjian’s supporters point out the irony of a writer being accused of copying Borges, a writer known for his fascination with the reproducibility of the classics and literary forgery. Commentators on the case have alluded to Borges’ short story ‘Pierre Menard: Author of the Quixote’ which imagines a fictional French author’s quest to recreate Cervantes’ masterpiece.

Book details

Image courtesy of Los Inrocks

Get Goosebumps this Fiction Friday with an Excerpt from Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen

The FishermenRead an excerpt from The Fishermen, the debut novel of Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma that is going places.

The Fishermen, which was published in April, has been longlisted for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the Edinburgh Festival First Book Award.

Binyavanga Wainaina recently told Books LIVE he thinks Obioma is “something quite serious”, adding: “I’m on page 10 and already I have goosebumps.”

Read an excerpt from the first chapter of The Fishermen:

We were fishermen:
My brothers and I became fishermen in January of 1996 after our father moved out of Akure, a town in the west of Nigeria, where we had lived together all our lives. His employer, the Central Bank of Nigeria, had transferred him to a branch of the bank in Yola—a town in the north that was a camel distance of more than one thousand kilometres away—in the first week of November of the previous year. I remember the night Father returned home with his transfer letter; it was on a Friday. From that Friday through that Saturday, Father and Mother held whispering consultations like shrine priests. By Sunday morning, Mother emerged a different being. She’d acquired the gait of a wet mouse, averting her eyes as she went about the house. She did not go to church that day, but stayed home and washed and ironed a stack of Father’s clothes, wearing an impenetrable gloom on her face. Neither of them said a word to my brothers and me, and we did not ask. My brothers—Ikenna, Boja, Obembe—and I had come to understand that when the two ventricles of our home—our father and our mother—held silence as the fishermen the ventricles of the heart retain blood, we could flood the house if we poked them. So, at times like these, we avoided the television in the eight-columned shelf in our sitting room. We sat in our rooms, studying or feigning to study, anxious but not asking questions. While there, we stuck out our antennae to gather whatever we could of the situation.

Book details

Image of the author courtesy Pontas Agency

Art-Movie-Book Reviews The Last Road Trip by Gareth Crocker and Hunger Eats a Man by Nkosinathi Sithole

The Last Road TripHunger Eats a ManVerdict: carrots

An easy read filled with nostalgic moments, that will remind you to love the people in your life and to cherish the time you get to spend with them. This book made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, so if this is what you are looking for, The Last Road Trip is the book to take off the shelf.

Book Details

Book details

Hein Willemse resenseer Die sideboard deur Simon Bruinders

Die sideboardUitspraak: wortel

Die sideboard bied ’n besondere perspektief
op die grondkwessie, sosiale identiteit en die
verhale wat in ‘subalterne’ gemeenskappe vertel
word. Simon Bruinders slaag grootliks
daarin om die Suid-Kaap en meer bepaald
George en sy inwoners se geskiedenisse van
grondstryde aan die orde te stel, trouens een
van die min kreatiewe Afrikaanse tekste oor
dié streek. Hy het voldoende bewys gelewer
dat hy in staat is om ’n meervlakkige en onderhoudende
verhaal te skryf. Ek sien uit na sy
tweede roman.


Deon Maas resenseer Boas Mei is verward deur Tinus Horn

Boas Mei is verwardUitspraak: wortel

Boas Mei is verward sien Horn as skrywer ’n trappie hoër beweeg.


Kalk Bay Books Presents an All-you-can-eat Buffet of Gus Ferguson’s Work, with John Maytham, Beverly Rycroft and More

Kalk Bay Books takes great pleasure in inviting you to a special evening in celebration of Gus Ferguson’s ouevre, with an all-you-can-eat buffet of his musings read by well-known and loved bookish friends.

Holding Back: New & Selected PoemsWaiting for GateauHolding Pattern

Ferguson – poet, pharmacist, cyclist, defender of snails and publisher – is one of the heavyweights of the South African poetry scene. Margaret Clough, Finuala Dowling, Hugh Hodge, John Maytham and Beverly Rycroft will be reading from his work.

The event takes place on Tuesday, 14 July and starts at 6:30 for 7 PM.

Come and enjoy a glass of wine and some incredible poetry!
Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 14 July 2015
  • Time: 6:30 PM for 7:00 PM
  • Venue: Kalk Bay Books
    124 Main Road
    Kalk Bay | Map
  • Guest Speakers: Margaret Clough, Finuala Dowling, Hugh Hodge, John Maytham and Beverly Rycroft
  • Refreshments: Wine
  • RSVP:, 021 7882266


Book Details

Image courtesy of Pirogue Collective

Ken Barris Reviews 101 Detectives by Ivan Vladislavic

101 DetectivesVerdict: carrot

I expected excellent writing from Ivan Vladislavić when I began reading this collection of short stories, and found it in abundance. However, I did not expect the hilarity I encountered in some of the tales. Not that Vladislavić is humourless by any means, but I seldom have the pleasure of laughing out loud when I read his work.

Book Details

Highlights of the 2015 South African Book Fair

The 2015 South African Book Fair


Here are some of the highlights of the 2015 South African Book Fair, taking place in Johannesburg from 31 July to 2 August.

The SABF programme was released last week, and will feature over 100 authors, writers, poets, publishers and playwrights.

We’ve picked out some of the unmissable events from this year’s South African Book Fair:

* * * * *

An Exceptionally Simple Theory (of Absolutely Everything)WastedFriday 10 AM (Brink Room)

Get published!

Mark Winkler talks about how he broke through the lit barrier and two publishers give their tips and suggestions on how to get published.

* * * * *


Walter and Albertina SisuluFriday 12 PM (Achebe Room)

Why is it important to talk to children in their own language?

In this insightful talk, Elinor Sisulu, NLSA & PUO discuss “Children’s literature publishing in indigenous languages: How do we achieve a quantum leap?” Facilitated by the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation.

* * * * *


Meaning in LifeThe Arrogance of PowerOn the PostcolonyWhat is Slavery to Me?Education, Economy and Society

Saturday 9:30 AM (Anglo Auditorium)

Goodbye to all that: Decolonising culture and institutions

Thaddeus Metz, Xolela Mangcu, Achille Mbembe & Pumla Gqola, chaired by Salim Vally. In conjunction with the M&G Literary Festival.

* * * * *

The ReactiveThe Dream HouseFalse RiverWhat Will People Say

Saturday 11:30 AM (Gordimer Room)

The power of family

Leon de Kock discusses the sometimes complicated, sometimes supportive nature of the family with novelists Masande Ntshanga, Craig Higginson, Dominique Botha & Rehana Rossouw.

* * * * *


101 DetectivesBroken MonstersPostcards from Soweto

Saturday 1 PM (Gordimer Room)

Stories from the street

Novelists Ivan Vladislavić, Lauren Beukes & Mokone Molete talk about their cities and the role they play in their lives. Moderated by Bontle Senne.

* * * * *


A Flawed FreedomRace, Class and PowerThe Limits of Democratic Governance in South AfricaWhat Will People SaySouth Africa's Suspended Revolution

Saturday 1:30 PM

South Africa at a fork in the road (Anglo Auditorium)

John Saul, Steven Friedman, Louis Picard & Rehana Rossouw, chaired by Adam Habib. In conjunction with the M&G Literary Festival.

* * * * *


Hugless Douglas Goes to Little SchoolSaturday 2 PM

Do you want to be an illustrator? (Alice’s Room)

Join award-winning David Melling as he shows you how he came to illustrate books, how he makes characters come to life and how you can learn to do the same. Interactive and fun! Age 7+

* * * * *

Sunday 9:30 AM

South African fiction publishing at 21 (Brink Room)

Gatekeeping or rainmaking? – Fourie Botha (Umuzi), Bridget Impey (Jacana), Thabiso Mahlape (The Blackbird), Palesa Morudu (Cover2Cover), Debra Primo (UKZN Press) & David Robbins (Porcupine Press), chaired by Raks Seakhoa. In conjunction with the M&G Literary Festival.

* * * * *

10 AM (Alice’s Room)

The Trouble With Cats (DC)

Wonder Woman races to save Batman & Superman from her arch-enemy, Cheetah on an island off the coast of Mozambique. The story takes a twist to Soweto where a young girl has to find her inner heroine & save the day. Lauren Beukes & art by Mike Maihack. Suitable for age 5+ & includes a brief talk on how comics are made. Grown-up comic fans welcome. Dressing up as a super hero is encouraged!

* * * * *


African Delights101 DetectivesStrange PilgrimagesThe Reactive

11:30 AM (Gordimer Room)


Siphiwo Mahala talks to Ivan Valdislavić, Achmat Dangor & Masande Ntshanga about the art of the short story.

* * * * *


The RaftThe LegacyBroken MonstersDark Windows

1 PM (Gordimer Room)

Science fiction, fantasy and horror – what are the rules of this new reality?

Speculative fiction is explored by Fred Strydom, Melissa Delport & Lauren Beukes. Chaired by Louis Greenberg.

* * * * *


Bad SexArctic SummerThe Texture of ShadowsWay Back HomeGreen Lion101 Detectives

1:30 PM (Anglo Auditorium)

The South African novel at 21

Leon de Kock discusses with novelists Damon Galgut, Mandla Langa, Niq Mhlongo, Henrietta Rose-Innes and Ivan Vladislavić. In conjunction with the M&G Literary Festival.

* * * * *


2:30 PM (Achebe Room)

Want to try your hand at professional editing?

Join this 50-minute hands-on workshop to see if editing is meant for you. “A lightning tour of the skill of editing” will have exercises and questions, so come expecting to be challenged … and supported. Please book early as we will need to restrict the number of participants to 25.

* * * * *


3 PM (Alice’s Room)

A dress-up “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”

In celebration of Alice in Wonderland’s 150th anniversary and the launch of Alice in isiZulu, with readings in both English and isiZulu. The Queen of Tarts, Tina Bester, will be serving it up! Prizes for the best-dressed! On the guest list – the Gruffalo, Wally, Floppy, Peter Rabbit and more … The grand finale to the bookfair!

* * * * *


Empire, War & Cricket in South AfricaArctic SummerDF Malan and the Rise of Afrikaner NationalismThe Texture of ShadowsStrange Pilgrimages

4 PM (Anglo Auditorium)

The Monuments Men: Rewriting reputation – Rhodes, Malan, Mandela & EM Forster

Dean Allen, Damon Galgut, Lindie Koorts & Mandla Langa, chaired by Achmat Dangor. In conjunction with the M&G Literary Festival.

* * * * *


Book details

Lara Buxbaum Reviews Dust by Yvonne Owuor

DustVerdict: carrot

Days after turning the last page, the characters still populated my dreams. As Binyavanga Wainaina says in his cover shout: “this is a big, big unforgettable book … the novel my 21st century has been waiting for”. Dust will not leave you unmoved.

Book Details

Frederick J Botha resenseer Komplot: Verwoerd moet dood deur Andre Kruger

Komplot: Verwoerd moet doodUitspraak: wortel

Met Komplot demonstreer Krüger die vermoë wat sekere ideologieë het om mense dood te maak, met die lojaliteit teenoor beginsels asook as die sin van oorlog wat deurgaans bevraagteken word.

Komplot is ’n ambisieuse spanningsverhaal waarmee Krüger bewys hoekom hy as een van die beste spanningskrywers in Afrikaans gereken kan word.