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“I do not know which of us has written this page”
Pablo Katchadjian, an Argentine writer and forthcoming UDP author, was recently charged with plagiarism for his experimental work, El Aleph engordado, in which he added to Borges’ original story, El Aleph, to create a new text.
In Katchadjian’s work, the original text was clearly attributed to Borges (both in the postscript and the title —"engordado" means “fattened or “expanded”). However, Borges’ widow appealed the court’s two original dismissals of the case, and last week Katchadjian was found in guilty in a Buenos Aires court.
What drives home the absurdity of this decision is the law on which it was based: la ley 11.723., art 10. This law permits anyone to use up to 1,000 words of literary and scientific works, so long as the appropriated text is accompanied by citation. It goes without saying that this quota is entirely arbitrary. Within the law, there is no consideration given to how a text is used. It treats expansion, erasure, and other forms of literary transformation with the same flat label: plagiarism.
In regards to El Aleph engordado, Pablo Katchadjian says: “Con respecto a mi escritura, si bien no intenté ocultarme en el estilo de Borges, tampoco escribí con la idea de hacerme demasiado visible: los mejores momentos, me parece, son esos en los que no se puede saber con certeza qué es de quién.”
(“With respect to my writing, I didn’t intend to hide myself in Borges’ style, nor did I write with the idea of making myself too visible. The best moments, it seems to me, are those in which one cannot tell with certainty who is who.”)
Considering Borges’ preoccupation with the self and identity (see: “Borges and I”, “Camden 1892” and “Emerson”), it seems reasonable to assume that he would have a very different reaction to Katchadjian’s use of El Aleph.
The final line of “Borges and I” rings with a new poignancy: “I do not know which of us has written this page.”
To show support for Katchadjian, please join this Facebook group, which seeks to raise awareness about this particular case:
To write your own found Borges poem, visit the site below: