On 17 May I received an email from a stranger in Qatar, telling me that someone in England had plagiarised one of my poems. Patty Paine, who teaches at the campus I did not know Virginia Commonwealth University has in Doha, and edits Diode, an online poetry magazine, pointed me to the site of another zine. There I saw a something that reflected my poem as if in a mirror that’s been through a house fire.
Elif Shafak’s novel Iskender, published in English as Honour this week, came out in Turkey last August. Like her previous books, it sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Within days of its appearance, however, a blogger accused Shafak of ‘lifting’ themes and characters from Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. The blog post quickly went viral. Smith’s Turkish translator said that Shafak had used White Teeth as a ‘template’ which didn’t really fit with the Kurdish characters in her novel. One journalist suggested the book should be moved to the foreign fiction shelves of Turkish bookshops.