His Dark (copied?) Materials

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The more we talk about subtle plagiarism, uninintended copying or serendipital inspiration the more I seem to stumble on references to this phenomenon. I am intrigued. Seriously intrigued. It could have something to do with this overdose of information that we are exposed to nowadays but it is not always so. I am toying with the idea of furthering my studies in an all new field away from the pastures legal and this “information exchange” business is quite a basket to open.

Reading the Economist’s “Intelligent Life” I came across an interview with Philip Pullman – the man behind the book behind the film called “The Golden Compass”. The book is not called “The Golden Compass” (that’s the US inspired name) but “His Dark Materials” and it is the first in a trilogy, inspired, among other things by Milton. Here’s the bit of the interview that set my radar blipping:

“He learnt ‘yards’ of Milton. When he began writing ‘His Dark Materials’ (the title itself comes from Milton), he realised after a while that he was telling the same story. ‘But I didn’t think on the one hand, ‘Oh, bugger, I’m telling the same story’, or, on the other hand, ‘Oh. great, I can copy it.’ I just realised that in his patch Milton had been working on the same thing. And a long time ago the original writer of Genesis had been working on the same story.”

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4 responses to “His Dark (copied?) Materials

  1. in music it is done constantly; a reinterpretation of a song, using bits of a song in a new one etc. so why not in literature? Or in art? Personally I would be delighted if an artist used my work to create something different or tries to reinterpret my work. I think that sometimes we give too much importance to originality.

  2. Too true. There has to be something in that. I remember mulling as a kid whether there will come a point where every song that could have been “invented” would have been “invented” and that no new songs could be made. Or stories. Or books. It was one of those kids thoughts like… does the radio keep working after you switch it off?

  3. … does the radio keep working after you switch it off? – ghogbitni wisq

  4. when you strip anything to its essentials you realise that there are always the same dozen themes being rehashed over and over again… originality lies more in the manner of how you present a concept rather than in the novelty of it as such… and then there is that saying which i really love – a mediocre artist borrows, a great one steals

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