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Orange Prize Flap
Amanda-Jane Doran -- 6/12/00
The fifth annual Orange Prize for Fiction was awarded amid charges of plagiarism in London last Tuesday.
The surprise winner of the £30,000 prize, given to women writers, was veteran journalist Linda Grant for her novel When I Lived in Modern Times (Granta), which has yet to find an American publisher. The novel takes place against a backdrop of the creation of the State of Israel, seen through the eyes of a naive Jewish girl from London. The favorite had been Zadie Smith, for her first novel, White Teeth (Random House); Smith has just closed a deal with the BBC for a six-part adaptation of the work and interrupted her U.S. book tour to attend the ceremony.
The judges were keeping a united front and maintained that the decision to award Grant the prize was "harmonious and unanimous."
Within 24 hours of winning the prize, Grant's jubilation turned to consternation, as claims of plagiarism started to circulate in the British press. The June 8 London Times quoted an American academic, Dr. Joshua Sherman, who asserts that Grant "mined" a work of his, Mandate Days, to provide descriptive color and chunks of dialogue. Grant has admitted that her book mixes fact and fiction, but was advised by her publisher not to include extensive acknowledgments for the hardcover, as it was not necessary for a work of fiction. The paperback version includes a sizable credit to Dr. Sherman and his publishers, as well as to several other factual sources.
Grant's agent, Derek Johns of A.P. Watt, is considering suing for defamation of character on Grant's behalf.
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