Support for Pablo Katchadjian [English version]

Open Letter

In 2009, Pablo Katchadjian published El Aleph engordado (The Fattened Aleph), in a print run of only 200 copies. The title itself and the “November 1, 2008 Postscript” at the end of the book are explicit about the procedure used by Katchadjian in his literary creation: without any intention to deceive, the Postscript explained that the book was a remake of the world-famous short story by Jorge Luis Borges, where the author added 5600 words of his own to the original 4000. The result was a short novel with different scenes, characters and a different style that is unique to Pablo Katchadjian’s poetic universe and should be seen in the context of his other works. Several of Katchadjian’s novels and poetry books have been translated into English, French and Hebrew, and he has been published in France, Belgium, Israel, Chile and Costa Rica, and is forthcoming in the USA (with Dalkey Archive). There was no plagiarism, no intention to deceive anyone and also, because of the short print run, the author did not obtain any economic benefit. Contrary to what the plaintiff states, no harm was done to Borges’ work: Katchadjian’s El Aleph engordado is an invitation to re-read Borges’ short story “The Aleph” and even to re-read his whole work. In 2011, María Kodama filed a criminal lawsuit against Pablo Katchadjian, which was dismissed by a lower court and by the Appeals Court; it was even dismissed by the Public Prosecutor, who dropped the charges and did not accompany any of the appeals filed by Kodama’s lawyers. The Public Prosecutor understands that no crime was committed. Despite this, Appellate Court Judges Gustavo Hornos, Eduardo Riggi and Juan Carlos Gemignani revoked the ruling and ordered the lower court to review the case. Pablo Katchadjian was subsequently indicted for alleged “intellectual property fraud”. There is no question that Pablo Katchadjian is the author of El Aleph engordado and that the subsidiary rights to this work belong to him. His literary procedure is no different to what has been common practice in the history of literature: working with pre-existent texts, remakes, re-versioning. It also does not differ from the long tradition of similar works that were created by writers and artists – including Borges himself – since the beginning of the 20th century. El Aleph engordado, with its short print run, was published by a small independent press without any links to the large corporations in the publishing world. Censoring this work implies setting the boundaries of a territory, setting a limit to attempts to broaden the diversity of publishing strategies, of different aesthetics and literary procedures. For this reason, the collective call to drop the charges against Pablo Katchadjian is a call in defense of creative freedom, of independent publishers, and of the aesthetic and critical diversity that every healthy culture needs. The prison sentence of one to six years that Pablo Katchadjian faces, the 80,000 peso (c. USD 8,000) embargo on his assets are disproportionate in relation to the alleged economic harm that the plaintiff claims the publication may have caused. This indictment seeks to discipline literary freedom by using a legal gap in the outdated Argentine Intellectual Property Law (Law 11,723). María Kodama is the heir of Jorge Luis Borges’ literary estate. This estate includes short stories, poems, essays, prologues, articles and books written in collaboration, which fit into four volumes in a bookshelf: the remaining world literature, which Borges helped to renew from Argentina, and of which El Aleph engordado is legitimately a part, does not belong to María Kodama, nor does she have any veto power over it.

The signatories of this letter call for the charges against Pablo Katchadjian to be dropped and invite judges, authorities and readers in general to carefully read El Aleph engordado, before or after reading or re-reading “The Aleph”. A careful and intelligent reading of the texts is the only way to reach any valid conclusions about the intellectual property rights of the book in question.

 Public demonstration in support of Pablo Katchadjian
 Friday, July 3rd – 7pm. National Library, Buenos Aires