Wednesday, March 01, 2006

It might be nonsense, but it's my nonsense

The writers of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail are suing the writer of The da Vinci Code for breach of copyright. The law is not a critic. It is perfectly legitimate for the creators of nonsense in one genre to seek redress from the writer of nonsense in another. As long as there's a buck to be made.

Are they going to sue Umberto Eco, as well? After all, for four-fifths of its length, Foucault's Pendulum takes the afore-mentioned nonsense seriously only to detonate it with common sense at the end. Nevertheless, he needed something to detonate, and this was kindly provided by the authors of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, among others. And Eco isn't short of a quid.

But writers of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail have a big problem, one related to their ostensible choice of genre: History. Weren't they bringing new facts to light, ones that so reconstructed the history we thought we knew that suddenly we didn't know it any more? Not writing a novel, which, as its name implies, is something 'new', or invented? Which is it, gentlemen? Fiction or history? As Magnus Linklater puts it,

This then must be the dilemma for those who seek to defend their own versions of made-up history: they can only sue and win if they can demonstrate that their ideas are fictional, invented and therefore entirely their own property. If, on the other hand, they succeed in proving that their research is genuine, and their investigations firmly based, then they have made a signal contribution to history — a history that belongs to us all.

No comments: