At Last, Here are Details for 4 and not 2 Plagiarised Short Stories by Aneeta Sundararaj, in a Malaysian short story collection called Snapshots!

2 Comments

by Susan Abraham

After years, I’ve secured the  necessary evidence.

Caption: The camera shot of Fourteen Stories by Pearl S. Buck, is my own. I don’t believe there is any other cover image for Fourteen Stories on the worldwide web. This is one of Pearl S. Buck’s lesser known works – a more obscure find.

Part 1 of the First Plagiarised Story

Recollection

In early 2009, while browsing at a popular bookshop in Kuala Lumpur, I came across this Malaysian collection of short stories by Aneeta Sundararaj, Saradha Narayanan and A. Jessie Michael, titled Snapshots!.  The stories were edited by Craig Cormick and the paperback, published by Oak Publications in 2006.

While glimpsing through the pages, I recalled  a disturbing  memory, of  having read a couple of short stories that were purportedly said to be written by Aneeta Sundararaj, also known on the internet as The Candid Storyteller.  All of a sudden, there lay that sudden suspicion… that tell-tale sign of a faint whiff of nostalgia, snatched from a forgotten time. I was certain I had read the same stories before.

After some contemplation, I would frown at the close similarities of original memorable works by the late award-winning novelist, Pearl. S. Buck. Buck had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for her novel, The Good Earth and in 1938, was handed a literary celebration of great distinction, The Nobel Prize for Literature.

To see what I mean about Sundararaj claiming these stories to be hers, you may refer to a local newspaper interview over HERE, where Sundararaj shared some chat, on how she drew out these particular ‘tales.’

Here is what I wrote in a blog post at the time of the two copied stories by Sundararaj:

“The ideas, central themes, stuctures, narrations, characterisation and plots have been lifted off the original, almost in their wholeness. I had read all of Pearl S. Buck’s short stories as a teenager, her books easily available in the school library and recognised the stolen stories at once. They were my favourites.”

and here.. “I also recognise another copied story…”  and here,  “These tales have long stayed out-of-print and would be very difficult to trace. I am surprised that I had read them all as a teen enough to remember them with clarity. They are gathered together with other modern American stories.

Then and Now:

Nothing has ever been mentioned.  Besides receiving a few poison-pen notes under my blog-post comments – more of taunts & heckles  – the individual mentioned, has never approached me and to the best of my knowledge has never made any public reference to these copied stories, or offer any attempt to rectify the allegations.  In fact, I had mentioned discovering the plagiarism before spilling any details all those years ago. The individual concerned who kept a close watch on my blog had plenty of opportunity to approach me privately but failed to do this. Finally after a length of time had passed, I wrote about it.

Since then, neither has anyone else openly made any reference to it. One or two did but spoke in praise and defence of Sundararaj with regards to her immense and helpful support for other writers.  As far as I was concerned, this plagiarism issue stood as a serious matter on its own.  But it appeared to me that my discovery was swiftly brushed aside. The silence on the issue as regards the Malaysian book scene at the time seemed so deliberate – I’m not sure on my part if this is fact or illusion – but the air was so still,  you could hear a pin drop.

Because I relied on memory and could not remember where exactly these stories were first collected together – Buck commanded a vast bibliography – I let the subject go.

However, in recent months, I felt that for the sake of my credibility alone, that I should  prove the plagiarism in greater detail. The thought of such an encounter  felt daunting… akin to searching for a needle in a haystack. Again, I let it go.  Finally, by some chance, on browsing through Abe Books for some favourite antiquarian collectibles, I came across the title Fourteen Stories by Pearl S Buck – all of secondhand copies.  I immediately questioned if the original works might be in here instead. Because of copyright infringement, I was unable to trace these stories on the web.  I decided to take a chance on ordering the book and I was right.

So far, I’ve discovered four plagiarised stories by Aneeta Sundararaj, in Snapshots! and not just the two as I had earlier concluded.

The book Snapshots!! containing the four plagiarized stories, is still being displayed in the present time (up to May 29, 2012) as a past accomplishment on this person’s portfolio or as a library collection. Please see…

National Library of Australia
Profile of Aneeta Sundararaj on Suite 101
The Candid Storyteller
Aneeta Sundararaj’s Profile in Arabesque Editions

Library Thing
HowtoTellaGreatStory. Please scroll to bottom of page.
Also, some international library urls, that still list the book in their stock & others.

**********

Here is a clearer version of the Plagiarism.  There is too much of copied detail by the individual concerned. I will place only some vital points of the 1st part of the plagiarised story as Sundararaj has copied the entire longer short story from start to finish.

The four stolen stories first appeared as original versions, tucked away in Fourteen Stories by Pearl S. Buck as a John Day edition published in the US in 1961. My version is a January 1976 edition, published by Pocket Books in New York.

First Part of the First Stolen Story: Original: Enchantment by Pearl S. Buck.  Plagiarised Version: Enchanteur by Aneeta Sundararaj.

The first stolen story by Aneeta Sundararaj is called Enchanteur on page 7 of Snapshots!  Enchantment is featured as the third story in Buck’s paperback and it begins on page 48.

Summary: The story that takes place within the stretch of an evening, highlights how a tired office executive meets a very beautiful woman on a crowded train. She approaches him for assistance. He is completely seduced by her sophistication but remembers with great fondness and affection, his  plain wife, Ruth. Ruth stays the loyal and devoted companion. Uncomplicated, sure and trustworthy. The story is a study of women who may be judged by men as to the strength of beauty measured against worth.

Buck – “The train was crowded and he was late.”

Sundararaj: “The commuter train was crowded and he was the last passenger.”

Buck: “…up and down the car, he thought that there were no seats left.”

Sundararaj: “Looking around, he noticed that there were hardly any seats left.”

Buck: “Then midway, he saw a woman sitting alone.”

Sundararaj: “Then halfway down a compartment, he saw a woman sitting by herself.”

Buck:  ” He thought of the easy days when he stepped out of the office building into an air-conditioned car. Poor Dixon, the chauffeur lay dead, somewhere in a jungle probably – dead anyway. He had been a good driver, a restful sort of fellow…”

Sundararaj: “He thought of the easy days when he used to step out of his office building and into a quiet, air-conditioned Mercedes.  Poor Samad, the driver, had been killed only a week ago by robbers in this frightening new thing, ‘road rage.’

Buck: “…and he made his way down the aisle. “Is this seat taken?” he asked the woman without looking at her.”

Sundararaj: “He made his way down the aisle. “Is this seat taken?” he asked the woman. He did not look at her.”

Buck:  “No, it isn’t,” she answered.

Sundararaj: “No, it isn’t,” she answered.

Buck:  “He lifted his briefcase and tried to find room for it on the rack. But packages crowded it and he was uncertain of its safety.”

Sundararaj: “…he thought of the danger of leaving his precious lap-top  perched on another’s package.”

Buck: “…she was looking up and their eyes met. He felt a shock of surprise. She was absolutely beautiful. ‘I’m afraid this isn’t safe,’ he stammered.’

Sundararaj: “…she was looking up at him. He was startled. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He said, somewhat softly, ‘I’m afraid I’ll have to keep this with me. It isn’t safe up there.’

Buck:  (I skipped some lines.) “He lifted the briefcase from the rack, sat down and put it between his knees.”

Sundararaj: “He sat down and placed the briefcase between his knees.”

Buck:  “…he was tired and anxious to get home where Ruth was waiting for him.  Together, Ruth and home made the background of his life.”

Sundararaj:  “He was tired after his day in court. Together, Padmini and home made his life bearable.”

Buck:  “He could endure the crass annoyance of his over-crowded days because he knew that outside the city, set far back from the tree-shaded streets of Lynnton, his own house stood in inviolable quiet, filled with beauty and composure.”

Sundararaj:  “He could endure the nonsense of court and the harassment of an over-crowded city like Kuala Lumpur, all because he knew that each day, outside the city, set far back in Seremban, his house stood quiet and welcoming.”

….. (I’m skipping some parts here where in Buck’s original version, the man and his wife Ruth have 2 sons who were abroad while in Sundararaj’s copied version, the man and his wife Padmini have 2 daughters who were also marrried and living away.)

Buck: ” He had the evening paper in his briefcase but he never read it until after dinner, when he and Ruth had the evening together.”

Sundararaj: ” Although he had the newspapers with him, he did not read it then. As always, he would do so only after dinner…”

(I’m skipping parts.)

Buck:  “…he opened his eyes. The woman was looking at him. She was fantastically beautiful.”

Sundararaj: “…he opened his eyes and turned to his left…only to look straight in the face of the woman next to him.”

(By the way, she wears a coat  in Buck’s original version and a sari in Sundararaj’s copied version.)

Buck: “Will you help me?” she asked in a whisper.  He sat up, surprised.

Sundararaj: “Please, can you help me?” she asked in a whisper.  He was stunned.

Buck: (skipping parts)… “He had been riding back and forth to Lynnton on this train ever since the war began and had spoken to no one and had been spoken to by no one….. he would have distrusted this woman at once except that she looked so honestly into his eyes.  ‘Where do you get off,’ she urged leaning to him.  She drooped her head so that the big hat…

Sundararaj: “All this time, in any journey on any mode, he had not spoken to anyone …. his instincts…told him not to trust this woman but one look at the almond shaped eyes and he knew that her request was made in earnest and in all honesty. ‘Where are you getting off this train?’ she asked. As she did, she drooped her head and angled….

Buck: “He was wary about telling her. ‘What can I do for you?’ he asked evasively. ‘Just let me walk beside you, wherever you get off,’ she said softly.  ‘As soon as we leave the station, I shall not need you. It is only to get off the train.”

Sundararaj: “He was even more wary now. ….he asked her, ‘what is it I can do for you?’ ‘Please, just let me walk beside you. Anywhere, you get off,’ she said, almost whispering. ‘As soon as we get out of the station, I shall not need your help. I just need to get off this train…’

Buck:  …”You had better tell me a little more.”

Sundararaj: “You had better tell me more, don’t you think?”

And at a later encounter (I’ve skipped many other copied parts)  when the man meets his wife:

Buck:  “She was terribly pretty, wasn’t she,” Ruth said pleasantly. They got into the car and she took the wheel as she often did, when he was tired. “I suppose so,” he said vaguely. “Certainly so,” Ruth said. “I always notice a really beautiful woman.”

Sundararaj:  “She’s very pretty, isn’t she,” said Padmini pleasantly. They got into her car, a Proton Wira Sedan and she drove home. …. if he sounded tired, she would bring the Proton. (I’m skipping added lines.) “Yes,” he said absent-mindedly. “She’s really beautiful,” Padmini repeated. “I always know a beautiful woman.”

*************

It goes on in this way for all the four stories, copied in their entirety.  What I have placed here, is just the tip of the iceberg.

When I first discovered the plagiarism, especially in the second copied story in Snapshots! called Brought Back to Life, it was a line on trees that made me remember, I’d heard it all before. A family crowds tenderly around a dying man in a hospital while a young male intern listens and from the rush of flowing love, takes on board a few heartwarming lessons about life.

Whereas in Pearl S. Buck’s Fourteen Stories, the original version is called Death and the Dawn. (page 216 of Fourteen Stories)

(Buck’s original lines) : The cherry tree will be full of cherries again this year, Dad,” Mary said.  She leans her elbows on the bed, her eyes fixed on her father’s face.  “When they’re ripe, George must spread the net over it, for you. The starlings are already waiting.

(Sundararaj’s copied version). “Our mango tree is full of mangoes, Appa,” Preeti said. She leant her elbow on the bed, her eyes fixed on Mr. Pillai’s. “When they’re ripe, Ashok is going to pluck them…that is if Ashok plucks them before the crows eat them.”

Buck: George laughed. “Those starlings, Dad! They never learn. Remember how they come every year and sit on the net and stare down at the cherries inside?

Sundararaj: Ashok laughed. “Those crows, Appa, remember how we used the elastic to chase them away? They never learn.

This story too, has been copied from start to finish.

I also discovered a third copied story in Sundararaj’s Aishwarya. Its original version from start to finish is actually titled With a Delicate Air by Pearl S. Buck.   It begins from from page 60 in Buck’s paperback.  A couple dressing in their bedroom, discuss their daughter-in-law.

Buck:  “And I say, Setsue spoils him,” Aline said firmly.  She sat at her dressing table, trying the effect of her gold earrings with her new black frock… (I’m skipping parts) above her own handsome reflection, she saw her husband’s… the two of them together were a stunning combination.”  – With a Delicate Air

Sundararaj:  “I tell you, Purnima is spoiling him…… Annapoorani (‘Anna’ for short) was seated at the dressing table. She was trying to find the perfect jewellery that would go with her sari….Above her own reflection, she could see that of Ram’s.  They made a handsome couple.” – Aishwarya

(Copied from start to finish).

The 4th copied story on page113 in Snapshots! is called Bad Luck (revolving around a poor Sikh family) and Sundararaj plagiarised the story content from a Chinese peasantry tale by Pearl S. Buck, also to be found in Fourteen Stories and called Parable of Plain People, nestled on page 103 of the original version.

Buck:  “His two sons were good young men. The eldest was married to a girl from a neighbouring village, the daughter of an old friend. When his friend was young and he also, their marriages were within the same month, and within three months, their wives were pregnant and they vowed their children to each other, if they should be boy and girl.”

Sundararaj: “…as the eldest son, his marriage was arranged and Harinder Singh’s wife was the daughter of a close family friend…. (am skipping parts)… he and his childhood friend were married at about the same time as each other and in time, their respective wives became pregnant.  They promised their children to each other, if they should be boy and girl.”

Buck: “This second son was not as strong as the first.”

Sundararaj: “His second son was not as strong as the first.”

Buck:  “…Only then did it occur to him to ask if the girl were good-looking. It was too late if she were not but still he owed it to his second son to warn him if she were not. … “Son, beauty in a wife is useless. It does not cook the rice or spin the silk or light the lamp.  On the other hand, it beguiles a man into wasting his time… He lies in bed when he should be up and at work… “

Sundararaj: “It was only after the engagement was agreed upon and the marriage date was fixed that Harinder Singh thought that he had not asked to see the bride. Was she good to look at or was she hideous? So he called his second son …”Son, beauty in a woman is secondary. A man who has a beautiful wife puts aside his work…indeed, he thinks more of reproduction than production….”

*******************

At the start of Snapshots!, there is a line that reads ‘Copyright © of stories belong to the respective authors.”  But the copyright of these stories placed partially here, called Enchantment, Death and the Dawn, With a Delicate Air and Parable of Plain People, all  belong to the late Pearl S. Buck’s estate and her trustees, and definitely not to Aneeta Sundararaj.  In Snapshots, no credit is given to Pearl S. Buck in any way, her name is simply never mentioned.

The stories above, have a long way to go and 95% of all the lines in each of the three stories and about 75% for the fourth story,  have been diligently  copied. The complete execution, character personality, structure and time frame are all copied directly from Buck’s own imaginary tales, personal inspiration and idealogies.

I leave you with this link that shows the author signing her book if you scroll all the way down:
Aneeta Sundararaj signing her book, Snapshots!.
and a post you might choose to find somewhat interesting,  considering.  Taking Snapshots.

I think that there should be a public explanation and apology made  to every hoodwinked reader.  I’m just relieved to have escaped the trickery and to have finally, unearthed a six-year old fraud.  – susan abraham

Bookmark and Share

2 thoughts on “At Last, Here are Details for 4 and not 2 Plagiarised Short Stories by Aneeta Sundararaj, in a Malaysian short story collection called Snapshots!

  1. Hi Susan,

    I was looking for your Twitter id in fact when I came upon this blog post and I’m so glad I did. I think what you have found here certainly warrants an explanation from the author in question. I would definitely be prepared to take up such a serious matter and flag it up on The Asian Writer. I’m just sorry I didn’t see this post sooner. Well done on your work – it must have been nagging at you to unearth the evidence for so long. Your persistence paid off!

    Farhana Shaikh

    Like

    • Hi Farhana,

      I believe the author got away with it. To the best of my knowledge, she has not taken any responsibility. Whereas I had highlighted this suspicion before the evidence came into my hands & she could have contacted me privately many a-time, which would have been the lesser of the 2 evils. But she chose not to. In fact, I got sent poison-pen notes for highlighting the plagiarism earlier on. Please do flag it up on The Asian Writer. I have the original Pearl S. Buck short stories with me. She writes for the Malaysian New Straits Times – freelance articles perhaps and I don’t know what impression she painted to have got away with this. The self-published collection of stories – with a collaboration of a couple of her friends – is no longer available in the stores. But she continues to use this book as her portfolio. I think because she was such an unknown, she got away with it.
      In one of my other laptops, she also has plagiarized some other work on I think, an American site. I came across it in the forums as she was pleading with the administrators for payment. They had refused to pay her, having discovered that a submitted article was plagiarized. She replied by saying, ‘everyone else was doing it…etc.. But the site removed her. I saw this happen a few years ago and it was pure co-incidence.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s