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Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako Did Jose Rizal "Plagiarize" Alexandre Dumas' Novel, "The Count Of Monte Cristo"?
Did Jose Rizal "Plagiarize" Alexandre Dumas' Novel, "The Count Of Monte Cristo"? PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Wednesday, 05 January 2011 21:02

 

By Jesse Jose

A Cup O' Kapeng Barako

 

N obody is infallible. 

 

Nobody is perfect. Nobody is without sin. And nobody is without a character flaw. And no, I am not going to preach here either.  For I am no preacher nor a peacemaker. I am just a columnist who tells it like it is.

 

And, my column this time is only an inquiry. A question, in other words. A question that had long lingered on my mind since college days. And perhaps, for asking this question, many Filipinos, the Rizalists especially, will condemn me for daring to even ask the question. But it is okay with my editor, Bobby Reyes, who has dubbed me a Fourth-Estate version of an “agent provocateur” (Fr. a-zhahn praw-vaw-ka-tœr] like him.

 

To the uninitiated, Rizalists are those groups of people who consider Jose Rizal, the Philippines' number one national hero as an unassailable demi-god. To them, he's the Man, the Man for all seasons, the Man of many talents and skills. And from what I understand, the Man that America picked to be the Man that Filipinos should emulate. Not Andres Bonifacio. Not Emilio Aguinaldo. Not Diego Silang. To America, I suppose those three Filipino heroes are all bandits and rebels and revolutionaries and, therefore, bad influences to the placid and subservient Filipinos of that era. 

 

Compared to Pakyaw, the latest Filipino hero of the Filipino people ... si Pakyaw eh nasa paanan lang ni Jose Rizal. No comparison really.  But because Pakyaw is a talented boksingero, who has won seven (or, was it eight?) world boxing titles, he's now the numero uno as the national hero, overshadowing Rizal and other national heroes of the Motherland.

 

Grabe, but anyway, let's move on, ha?

 

A few days ago, Romy Marquez, foremost a good friend, a prolific Filipino writer and investigative reporter based in Toronto, Canada, cc'd me a copy of his latest news video. The subject was Jose Rizal and of his many different faces depicted in several paintings, statutes and busts that he'd seen in different towns and cities that he'd been.  And it's titled, "A Filipino Web-Channel© Newsvideo: The Hero with Many Faces." 

 

A COMMENT AND A QUESTION: I found his news video interesting, so I e-mailed him a comment and a question, cc'd some of our colleagues, the "friendlies" and the "unfriendlies," with the intent of promoting discussion on the matter. Here's my e-mail to Romy and to those colleagues:

 

Pareng Romy ... Et Al,

 

That was interesting -- those many different faces and images of Jose Rizal. I suppose those different sculptors and painters who sculpted and painted him had also different ideas on how Rizal looked like, thus those various and different images of our number one national hero. Personally, I like that "classic" image of him that graces his Noli Me Tangere book.

 

I have a great admiration for this man: Of his many talents and unquestioned love for the Filipino people and for our Motherland.  But something bothers me though about the plot of his second book, El Filibusterismo.  Because it seems that the plot of El Fili has a glaring similarity to the plot of another novel, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. 

 

Both main characters in those two books – Crisostomo Ibarra in El Fili and Edmond Dantes in The Count found sizable amount of TREASURES, which were used as instruments in exacting REVENGE.  I wonder who plagiarized who. Was it Rizal? Or, was it Dumas? 

 

I hate to think that it was Rizal who copied the plot.  But then, I also hate to think that it was Dumas who did it.  Both books are world-renowned classics.  Forgive my ignorance, but can you please clear me on this?"    

 

Four colleagues responded, two friendlies and two unfriendlies.  Here's Romy Marquez's friendly response:

 

"Pareng Jesse ... Just like you, I am on the dark on this.  But you raised a valid point.  However, since both novels are accepted for what they contain, it should be good enough to sideline the issue of who copied who.  For all we know, neither did.

 

"Rizal's novel was based on the prevailing situation at that time.  I haven't read much of Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo and perhaps I need to research a little bit to be able to come up with an intelligent response to your question. I suppose our Grand Knight Bobby Reyes would be able to give some insights. Thanks and best regards."

 

LOLO Bobby Reyes has also a friendly response to my question.  It's posted at the end of this story. (And I requested him to reprint it in the User’s Comments section.) It clarified the issue and satisfactorily answered my question.  

 

SIMILARITY IS NOT PLAGIARY?: The same-same answers of my two other colleagues, Perry Diaz and Don Azarias, are, I think, muddled answers. Surely, their assumptions are incorrect. Here's what Perry Diaz, of California, and Global Balita publisher, said:

 

"Finding a treasure and using it to exact revenge on someone is a COMMON PLOT used by many writers. Similarity doesn't make plagiary. However, if you lifted an entire segment, section, chapter or the story in its entirety, then that would be considered plagiary ..."

 

Don Azarias of Chicago and a Fil-Am MegaScene columnist, concurred with Perry's assumption. He said, "I am inclined to go along with Perry Diaz's statement. I don't believe Dr. Jose Rizal plagiarized Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo ..."

 

PERRY DIAZ'S DEFINITION OF PLAGIARISM IS WRONG: It's true that "lifting an entire segment, section, chapter, or the story in its entirety" is plagiarism. But to stop the definition there is wrong. Because it's not only that. Plagiarism as defined in several dictionaries is "the wrongful appropriation and CLOSE IMITATION or purloining and publication of another author's language."

 

CLOSE IMITATION are the key words in defining plagiarism.  SIMILARITY is the other word for CLOSE IMITATION.

 

Furthermore, according to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, to plagiarize means:

·        To steal and pass off (the IDEAS and words of another) as one's own.

·        To use (another's production) without crediting the source.

·        To commit literary theft.

·        To present as NEW and ORIGINAL AN IDEA or product from an existing source.

 

In other words, copying IDEAS is plagiarism! Changing the words of an original idea is plagiarism! Changing words but copying the sentence structure of an idea is plagiarism!  Similarity is plagiary! 

 

Rizal's storyline in El Fili has the same storyline as that of Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. A treasure was found. And that treasure was used in exacting revenge.  

 

ONLY LESSER WRITERS PLAGIARIZE: Perry Diaz said the plot is a "common plot used by many writers."  By LESSER writers, yes!  But not of the caliber of Jose Rizal ... or of Alexander Dumas. By writers of Filipino soaps that we see on TFC, yes! Several storylines of those soaps are copied. Many of the funny game shows that we see on that channel are copied. Even that popular tsismis show, "DA Buzz" of Boy Abunda has been copied from one of America's popular TV shows, called "The Buzz." 

 

And that Philippine Tourism slogan and artwork, "Ang Pilipinas Kay Ganda," as we all know, has also been copied from Poland, was it not? And, from what I heard, also some writings of a Philippine Supreme Court justice ... The list goes on.  

 

It seems to me that plagiary is a Filipino trait among many Filipino writers kuno. Especially here in America. They blatantly copy news and editorials from Philippine newspapers and opinions of mainstream professional journalists and they pass them off as their own in Fil-Am publications. Believe you me, I've seen it.     

 

B ut back to Rizal and Dumas. So, who copied who? Whose novel came out first? According to the Wikipedia that LOLO Bobby Reyes cited, Dumas lived from 1824 to 1895. Whereas Rizal was born in 1861, and as we all know, died by musketry and as a hero in the hands of the Spaniards on December 30, 1896, on charges of sedition and rebellion against Spain.

 

Dear Readers, please don't get me wrong. I am not saying that Dr. Jose Rizal, our Motherland's greatest national hero "plagiarized" Alexandre' Dumas' novel. But The Count of Monte Cristo was completed in 1844, 17 years before the birth of Jose Rizal.

 

Because I really don't know!

 

I think Romy Marquez provided the best honest-to-goodness answer to my question when he said, "You raised a valid point.  However since both novels are accepted for what they contain, it should be good enough to sideline the issue of who copied who. For all we know, neither did ..." Right on!

 

So did LOLO Bobby Reyes, when he said, "Let us just say Rizal was inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo.” Amen to that!

 

But then ... as I said, "nobody is infallible, nobody is perfect, nobody is without sin, and without character flaw."  By the way, I plagiarized that quotation, too.  JJ

 



Related news items:
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Last Updated on Sunday, 09 January 2011 11:22
 
Comments (3)
Dear Romy and Ka Jesse and Friends:

There were other individuals who have raised before Ka Jesse's valid question. Almost all of the Knights of Rizal and other Rizalists have evaded the issue.

But here are some points to consider:

1.0 Alexandre Dumas (27 July 1824 – 27 November 1895) was born and died ahead of Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal (June 19, 1861 -- Dec. 30, 1896).

2.0 "The Count of Monte Cristo (French: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo) is an adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas, père. It is often considered to be, along with The Three Musketeers, Dumas' most popular work. The writing of the work was completed in 1844. Like many of his novels, it is expanded from the plot outlines suggested by his collaborating ghostwriter Auguste Maquet.[1]" -- data from Wikipedia.

2.1 Dumas' obra maestra was completed in 1844, roughly 17 years before Rizal was born.

2.2 But even Dumas had a ghostwriter. But then as my journalism professors in San Beda said, "Almost all ideas have been written before, especially as narrated in the Bible, the Torah and the Koran. It is almost impossible to write an original story. One can only re-write a story already previously written and the writer can add a twist or two or even an O'Henry (surprise) ending.

2.3 While I am not saying that Rizal was the direct ascendant of the Perrytale writer (who copies a lot from the Wikipedia and other search engines and passes them off as his own original writing), certainly our national hero was inspired (again) by European history and other events and characters.

2.3.1 According to my grandfather-in-law, Don Belong de los Reyes, Rizal's line in the Fili ("Today's slaves are tomorrow's tyrants") was actually copied from a lesson derived from the French Revolution (1789–1799). Remember that some of the leaders of the French Revolution had their heads guillotined also, after they fought the others for supremacy and lost. This happened months after they guillotined first the French king and queen and most of their court members. History keeps on repeating itself. Even the NPAs in the Philippines eliminated too some of their comrades as a means of cleansing the revolution. The same happened in China during the Cultural Revolution and in other countries, too.

Since Rizal took his literary secrets to his grave, then we can only make educated guesses. And your guess, Ka Jesse, is as good as Romy's, which is as good as mine. Or as good as Joseph's or Bart's.

And if I may direct you to the 78-word biographical sketch of Dr. Rizal, which Romy featured in his newsvideo, I may write this line when I re-do Romy Marquez's biography for our coming souvenir program, "Before there was Hugh Hefner, there was Jose P. Rizal and after them came Romeo P. Marquez . . ." LOL.

Mabuhay,

Roberto "Lolo Bobby" Reyes y Mercado
2 Wednesday, 05 January 2011 22:26
Pareng Jesse,

Quite touchy, your essay is going to raise a lot of questions. But that's how it should be. Issues are meant to provoke the thought process and you just did it with this Rizal thing. Thanks for mentioning me. Best regards,

Romy Marquez
3 Thursday, 06 January 2011 13:39
mabuhay
Dear Ka Jesse:

If you Google "Rizal and Dumas," 208,000 results will appear in 0.14 seconds:

Ka Jesse, your article is the number-one result in the Google Search Engine.

Please try it. And it pays to write for MabuhayRadio.com. In less-than 24 hours, some of our published articles appear in the top results-list of Google and some other search engines. I do not know how our webmaster does it, but it gets done.

Mabuhay and congratulations, Ka Jesse. Some of the other results discuss also the same argument or connection between Rizal and Dumas that you wrote about.

Lolo Bobby

PS: Please just forward to your mailing lists, as somehow I have difficulty in sending e-mails from my laptop here at Starbucks in the City of Walnut. This laptop (that I am using) doesn't have my complete mailing lists and my replies to your and others' e-mails could not go through.

Here's a reproduction of Page One of the Search Results . . .

=========================================

About 208,000 results (0.14 seconds)
Search Results


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