Helen Darville aka Helen Demidenko – Update

February 1997

Helen Darville, who caused a furore less than two years ago with her book The Hand That Signed the Paper, is in trouble again. While most of the uproar concerned her fake Ukrainian identity, there was also concern that she had reproduced a substantial amount of work from other writers, most notably Robyn Morgan and Thomas Keneally.

While Helen Darville’s lawyers defended this as a legitimate postmodern practice and the authors involved declined to sue the publishers, there was little doubt that Darville had, on that occasion, been a plagiarist. Still later, Brian Matthews revealed that much of a short story of Darville’s, published in the magazine Republica, had been taken word for word from a story of his. Both Matthews and Morgan publicly expressed their sense of violation and outrage.

Readers of Helen Darville’s column in the Brisbane Courier Mail now know it was taken almost word for word from a piece by Dr Peter Anspach published on the internet. In a statement from her lawyers, Ms Darville says “if these lines are not part of free and public domain material as I thought I apologise for any error on my part in using material posted on the net.” This, when the site in question has a clearly posted copyright notice.

Helen Darville has now lost her job as columnist for the Courier Mail. We await further developments. She is said to be working on a second book. To echo Robyn Morgan’s response: “I wonder whose?”

Cassandra Pybus,
Editor, AHR

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