Alyson Miller In Conversation…on plagiarism

John Hughes’s novel The Dogs has been withdrawn from the longlist for the Miles Franklin Prize after an investigation by The Guardian identified numerous instances of plagiarism. Hughes’s lifting of passages from other books has sparked furious debate and literary detective work – mostly on Twitter – prompting questions about the nature of influences, literary pastiche and the attribution of sources in novels.

Alyson Miller responded on 21 June 2022 in The Conversation to the plagiarism issues currently in discussion regarding the John Hughes book The Dogs, and ethical responsibilities of the novelist: 

Hughes has put forward two statements in relation to claims regarding his book. Initially, he explained that he had unintentionally incorporated work from Alexievich’s book through his transcripts from his grandparent’s stories of surviving the second world war, which appear fictionalised in The Dogs.  ‘Nearly 60 similarities and identical sentences were found in a comparison of Hughes’ novel and the 2017 English translation of Svetlana Alexievich’s nonfiction book The Unwomanly Face of War.’ Hughes apologised to Alexievich and her translators “for using their words without acknowledgement”.

In the second statement about a week later, however, Hughes explained why he was not a plagiarist, once more in The Guardian. As Miller indicates,

Rather than a mea culpa, he drew on arguments first proffered by the Romantic poets of the late 18th century about the impossibility of originality, and the importance of drawing on other writers’ work as part of the creative process.



Terry-ann White of Upswell Publishing has been caught up in this situation, where Hughes’ defence focuses on collage and bricolage as a way to demonstrate influences on his work.

Terri-ann White went on to say:

I have published many writers who use collage and bricolage and other approaches to weaving in other voices and materials to their own work. All of them have acknowledged their sources within the book, usually in a listing of precisely where these borrowings come from.

I should have pushed John Hughes harder on his lack of the standard mode of book acknowledgements where any credits to other writers (with permissions or otherwise) […] are held. I regret that now, as you might expect. To have provided a note in this book with attribution would have been the only way to treat it.

This situation is continuing its discussion through Twitter, with more source texts being discovered. As Miller concludes:

…the scandal has focused attention on the responsibilities of the author, the complexities of writing fiction, and the ethics of creative practice.