Novelist Murray Bail Answers Plagiarism Charges

Posted on February 4, 2005

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that author Murray Bail, author of the award-winning novel Eucalyptus which is currently being made into a move starring Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe in Australia, has been hit with a charge of plagiarism. The book, which is a fairy tale set on a eucalyptus plantation has several direct lifts from an out-of-print textbook, Eucalyptus, Volumes One and Two by Stan Kelly, George Chippendale and Robert Johnston, published in 1969 and 1978. About 180 words of the 90,000-word novel are in question; they are descriptions of various eucalyptus trees.

The author, suitably horrified, has apologized and said that the error came when he was doing research and later accidentally removed the quotation marks from the descriptions; apparently his office was a bit of a mess. He freely admits referencing the Kelly books and has great praise for them.

Bail seems like a nice sort and it hardly seems worth the fuss. The 83 year-old author of the text in question said he never recognized his own words and loved Bail's novel. Anyone can make an honest mistake. But this should be a lesson to all writers; keep those research notes neatly filed and labeled, no matter how ADD you are!


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