Zadie Smith Alleged Victim of Plagiarism in Turkey, but Also Maybe Not


A blow-by-blow of accusations that Turkish novelist Elif Safak has plagiarized from the Turkish translation of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth is up at The Millions. We are told by The Millions’ Turkish correspondent (!) that this is what Ms. Safak wrote in a Turkish newspaper in response to the allegations (The Millions’ translation, since The Observer‘s Turkish is, um, rusty):

Enough already! Iskender, which I wrote in England, which my English publishers read line by line with great pleasure, which my English agency represents with great pleasure, will be published back-to-back in England and the U.S. in 2012 by Penguin and Viking, two of the best publishing houses in the world. Given all this, I don’t take seriously the accusations levied by a handful of people whose intention is to wear me down. As with all of my books, my hard work and imagination is evident in this novel. I’m fed up, we’re fed up with the reckless attacks against people who do different work. My reader knows me. Iskender is my eleventh book, my eighth novel. This is what I say to those dealing in slander, gossip, and delusional behavior.

The plots of the two books are apparently similar, but the passages that have received the most scrutiny involve characters looking up through a basement window at the activity happening at street level and conjuring stories from the things they see. It’s the physical perspective and activity that is replicated, not the language itself, although The Millions is working from a Turkish translation of White Teeth that has been translated back into English.