Is A 'Fattened' Version Of A Famous Jorge Luis Borges Story Artistic Re-Creation, Or Copyright Infringement?
from the authorship,-appropriation,-and-interpretation dept
Next month, a rather unusual court case involving copyright will get underway in Argentina:
The novelist and poet Pablo Katchadjian is facing trial for “intellectual property fraud” after publishing a reworking of Borges’s 1945 story The Aleph. The Fattened Aleph — originally published by a small press in 2009 — extended Borges’s work from its original 4,000 words to 9,600.
Most of the alterations consist of the addition of adjectives and descriptive passages and do not change the original plot, which revolves around “a small iridescent sphere” in a Buenos Aires basement, through which a person can see the entirety of creation.
As the Guardian reports, the legal action has been brought by the widow of Borges, María Kodama. Theoretically the case could lead to a six-year jail sentence for Katchadjian, although nobody seriously expects him to end up in prison if he loses. Kodama’s lawyer is unimpressed with the argument that “The Fattened Aleph” is just another of Katchadjian’s literary experiments. Previously, the author rewrote an epic 19th-century poem about gauchos called “Martín Fierro,” by placing the poem’s lines in alphabetical order. “Martín Fierro” is also the name of a 1920s Argentinian literary magazine that published work by Borges, amongst others.
But Katchadjian’s most interesting connection with Borges is to be found in a short story published by the latter in 1939:
“Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” is written in the form of a review or literary critical piece about Pierre Menard, a fictional 20th-century French writer. It begins with a brief introduction and a listing of Menard’s work.
Borges’ “review” describes Menard’s efforts to go beyond a mere “translation” of Don Quixote by immersing himself so thoroughly in the work as to be able to actually “re-create” it, line for line, in the original 17th-century Spanish. Thus, Pierre Menard is often used to raise questions and discussion about the nature of authorship, appropriation, and interpretation.
Rather like “The Fattened Aleph,” in other words. It’s a pity that Borges’ widow doesn’t see it that way.