Zakes Mda a copy thief?

Interesting article in the Mail & Guardian by Stephen Gray about the similarities between Mda’s Heart of Redness and Jeff Peires’s The Dead Will Arise. Mda had thought that the reference to Peires in the dedication of Heart of Redness would be enough, but American historian, Andrew Offenburger, traced so much of the text to Peires that he felt that this wasn’t sufficient (read sections of copied, paraphrased and sequential borrowing here).

Heart of Redness was ‘Seemingly… in reply to the challenge made by John Edgar Wideman, the African-American novelist, who had remarked that if South Africans could not produce fiction on their own writer’s gift of a theme — what used to be called “the national suicide of the Xhosas” — they were a lot of moegoes.’ 

Offenburger says: ‘What saddens me most about The Heart of Redness is that we readers of South African literature have lost an opportunity to read a substantial account–for the first time–of the Xhosa Cattle-Killing from the perspective of a Xhosa novelist. Instead, we are given another author’s paraphrased words and vision. And without clearly attributing how much of the novel originated in Peires’s text, most of us likely assume the material to be Mda’s.’

I find it interesting that Peires will not pursue the matter. He admires Mda’s location scouting and concurs with Mda that fiction-writers are traditionally irresponsible anyway, taking advantage of being shot of the disciplinary controls of academic discourse. So Peires will leave it at that.’

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