Nobel winner `copied woman's unknown novel'

A SPANISH schoolteacher once wrote a novel in her spare time and sent it off for fun to a prestigious literary competition. Her manuscript was returned months later, but when she read the winning novel, by Spain's 1989 Nobel prize winner, Jose Camilo Cela, she was horrified to discover it bore a strong likeness to her own.

Last month Carmen Formoso sued the grand old man of letters for plagiarism and the Planeta publishing house for breach of copyright. She wants no money, "just moral compensation and the return of what was stolen from me".

Mrs Formoso says Mr Cela's novel La Cruz de San Andres contains numerous similarities to hers in subject, plot, characters, historical moments, names, places and text that go far beyond mere coincidence. Mr Cela dismisses her claim as nonsense, and threatens to countersue.

Mrs Formoso says she bought Mr Cela's book "thinking I could learn a lot from it". She adds: "I nearly died of shock. How would I convince anyone I'd been plagiarised by Cela?"

She sent her novel Fluorescencia to Planeta in April 1994, and registered the copyright. The Planeta prize was awarded to Mr Cela's work in October 1994, the month before her manuscript was returned to her. Mrs Formoso thinks someone at Planeta passed on a copy to Cela.

Her sons, including her lawyer, Jesus Diaz Formoso, believe she had a case. So do three literature professors whose report forms the basis of her lawsuit. "The similarities can't be coincidence, because my mother describes her own life in that novel," says Mr Formoso.

Carmen Formoso grew up in the north-western town of La Coruna, and spent summers in Ordones where her father recovered from tuberculosis contracted while fighting during the Civil War. She recounts this in Fluorescencia. It is also described in Mr Cela's La Cruz de San Andres (St Andrew's Cross).

Mrs Formosa wrote Fluorescencia after discovering her grandmother, a cigar- smoking Cuban emigrant, had dabbled in the occult. It tells of a family of three generations of women from La Coruna who practise black magic until they suffer physical and moral collapses, with action in Buenos Aires, Ferrol, Havana, Morocco, Portugal and Africa.

In Mr Cela's La Cruz de San Andres a woman describes her moral collapse and that of her women friends from their membership of a satanic group that practises black magic. The action takes place in Coruna, with references to Buenos Aires, Havana, Ferrol, Morocco, Portugal and Africa.

Mrs Formoso details the rituals of black magic; so does Mr Cela. Her novel covers the 1930s to the 1980s, but concentrates on the post-war years and the 1960s and 1970s; so does Mr Cela's. Both novels describe the solitude and frustrations of those living in and around La Coruna in the grey years of Francoism.

The response was swift. "Camilo Jose Cela cannot be disturbed by nonsense like this, probably the most ridiculous piece of trivia that has occurred in his life," said his wife, Marina Castano. "We could countersue so this poor woman will have to work for the rest of her life to pay the damages."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border