Jens Liljestrand explains the problems with the literary loans in Jan Guillou “Blue Star”.
How much can a writer take from someone else’s non-fiction book before the loan becomes a theft ? The issue arose in 2012, when the Uppsala City Theatre put up the play “The Prince” of Jan Stenbeck , largely based on the Per Andersson biography from 2000 without asking for permission.
Now is the Jan Guillou turn. He came under fire after his last book, “Not wanting to see,” have been accused of giving a false picture of the state of knowledge in Sweden about the Holocaust before May 1945. The “Blue Star”, he tries to take revenge by letting Johannesson, eldest daughter of the patriarch Lauritz Lauritzon, involved as a spy and save the Norwegian Jews.
In the middle of novel she gets in contact with the Swedish intelligence service headquarters C- the Agency and the network of women communicators who goes by the name of “Secretarial Club”. It is in the portrayal of this story that Jan Guillou has laid hands on the Jan Bergman book from last year and simply grafted on to their own. From C-agency, gallery of characters and environments (restaurants Burnt plot, Cecil and “Gangster-Norma”) to the small but credible details, as they often poor women painted with strong tea on their legs to make it look like the bar silk stockings on their spy hunts through Stockholm’s nightlife. Shebang. Often it is not even the names changed.
I can not see that any of this would be impermissible in the legal sense. Documentary persons are not copyrighted, and Guillou himself has carefully defused the bomb by in his afterword explicitly admit that he has “everything” from Bergman’s book. But morally troublesome is that anyway, not least because “Secretarial Club” was released as recently as last year (it came in paperback this spring) and is written with a literary language. Guillou can thus hardly be said to be alive made a strident non-fiction – on the contrary, he has borrowed from another spy thriller to give material for “Blue Star”.
Really horrible becomes in a central region, where Bergman’s restrained portrayal of how some women are subjected to an obnoxious gang of Nazi officers on Valhallavägen in Jan Guillou’s bottling becomes an intrusive depicted sexualsadistisk orgy on Karlavägen. Where one of the raped women, fortunately, happen to pick up part of the officers’ conversations, information confirming rumors of an ongoing extermination of the Jews. So, it becomes (authentic) assault in Jan Guillou’s typewriter a meaningful sacrifice in the struggle against evil.
Now hailed Guillou for a “feminist” book that highlights the “unknown perspective”. While Jan Bergman is standing there with his deeply painful family history, its more than 30 years of work and the memory of the women he wanted to give dignity and redress.
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