Sex, Drugs & Plagiarism: More on the Hegemann Skandal

There’s an interesting article in Der Spiegel’s English-language version about the Helene Hegemann scandal. This story just keeps going and going. She certainly is getting a lot of press (struggling writers, take note), isn’t she? The article quotes both Hegemann and Airen, the blogger she stole much of her material from. I didn’t realize that Hegemann is the daughter of the famous German dramaturge and theater professor Carl Hegemann. So she grew up in that circle. Meanwhile, blogger Airen comes from a very different world. He grew up in southern Germany and moved to Berlin a few years ago. He worked 60+ hours per week at an office job, far from Berlin’s bohemian world. The long hours and the loneliness led him to submerge himself in Berlin’s nightlife. And then he began blogging about it. The plot thickens! So Hegemann, the privileged, intellectual 17-year old took much of her material from an office worker. For her it was all a metaphor, for him it was real life.

At the end of the article, writer Tobias Rapp claims Hegemann is a star and stars can do what they want with other people’s work. She’s a star because she saw that Airen’s work was good, and so she incorporated it into her work. The final passages of this piece strike me as slightly obnoxious:

Hegemann says she mercilessly plundered her own experiences and those of her friends in the search for material. That is something that has to be taken seriously. The ability to rely on your own taste, to interpret things to suit your needs and to transform them in a way that they can become significant is a talent that should not be underestimated — because it is rarer than the ability to write well.

In the world of pop music, such people are called stars. A star must know what’s cool and be able to represent and personify those things. Being ruthless comes with the territory. Stars use the whole world as their raw material. They take what they consider to be rightfully theirs with the confidence of a demi-god.

That can be painful for those people who become someone else’s raw material. It’s an act of cruelty, but it is not intended to hurt people’s feelings.

Actually, I would argue that the ability to write well is a rare thing. And transforming and interpreting life experience into something significant defines good writing.


~ by Valerie Palmer on February 25, 2010.

One Response to “Sex, Drugs & Plagiarism: More on the Hegemann Skandal”

  1. […] night I heard Helene Hegemann speak at Skylight books here in LA. If you recall, Hegemann is the young author who caused a kerfuffle last year with her novel Axolotl Roadkill when it was revealed that she had used an anonymous […]

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