Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Prize, has removed John Hughes’ The Dogs from its 2022 long list, a day after Hughes apologized for plagiarizing parts of a work by a Nobel Prize winner “without realizing it” in his acclaimed novel.
Following a Guardian Australia investigation that found 58 similarities and instances of identical text between parts of Hughes’ 2021 novel The Dogs and the 2017 English translation of Svetlana Alexievich’s non-fiction The Unwomanly Face of War, Hughes apologized to Alexievich and his translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. “for using their words without recognition”.
In a statement to Guardian Australia on Friday, a spokesperson for Perpetual, Literary Prize Trustee Miles Franklin, said: “Having been made aware of the circumstances surrounding the shortlisted novel The Dogs, Perpetual, as Trustee of the Prize literary Miles Franklin, consulted with the jury and the publisher and it was agreed that the novel be removed from the long list.
“The shortlisted finalists will be revealed on June 23, 2022 and the winner announced on July 20, 2022.”
Hughes’ publisher, Terri-ann White of Upswell Publishing, confirmed that she had requested that The Dogs be removed from competition for the $60,000 prize.
“There has already been strong discussion and conjecture about the context offered by the author and publisher,” White said in a statement. “As our joint response indicated, we did not justify anything: it was a clear appropriation of the words of others (those women whom Svetlana Alexievitch listened to, alongside her words). It wasn’t deliberate; it was human error.
“It is a salutary reminder to imaginative writers who do not use the formal tools of scholarship that ‘false memory’ – the self-attribution of another’s handwriting after becoming familiar with its locution – is a serious consideration before submitting for publication. If John Hughes had intended to plagiarize so successful a book as the magnificent The Unwomanly Face of War, he would have changed the words of these short descriptive passages. This painful incident did not not diminish my respect for John Hughes as a writer.
The Dogs was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Prize in May and has previously been shortlisted for the 2022 Victorian Premier’s and 2022 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards for Fiction.
First awarded in 1957, the Miles Franklin Literary Prize is awarded annually to a novel of the highest literary quality. It is a condition of the 2022 award guidelines that “all nominations must consist entirely of the author’s original work”.
Alexievich’s book The Unwomanly Face of War was first published in Russian in 1985. It brings together interviews conducted by Alexievich with over 200 women who fought for the Soviet Union in World War II.
In 2015, the Belarusian journalist received the Nobel Prize for Literature for her “historic polyphonic writings, a monument of suffering and courage in our time”.
When first approached by Guardian Australia about the similarities between his novel and Alexievich’s book, Hughes said he made “many recordings and transcriptions” with his Ukrainian grandparents, who recounted many instances similar to those contained in The Unwomanly Face of War.
Hughes said he read it when it was released in English in 2017 and used it to teach voice acting to creative writing students, acknowledging Alexievich as the source.
“I typed up the passages I wanted to use and haven’t gone back to the book itself since,” he said. “At some point, shortly after, I had to add them to the transcripts I had made of interviews with my grandparents and over the years and… [had] come to regard them as mine.