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An Award-Winning Novelist Is Lifting Viral Tweets

Author and commentator Helen Dale, who was once sacked for plagiarism, has her second novel coming out in October.

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Earlier this week, the co-host of podcast Reply All, PJ Vogt, was alerted to the fact someone had ripped his viral tweet and put it on Facebook under their own name.

I've been plagiarized before, but never by an award-winning novelist with thousands of followers. Thanks,… https://t.co/Qo9WTwIBvp

Although she now works as a columnist for the conservative Spectator magazine and lives in the UK, Dale remains one of the most controversial figures in modern Australian literature.

Dale published her novel The Hand That Signed the Paper in the early '90s under the pen name "Helen Demidenko" and it scooped Australia's top literature awards, including the prestigious Miles Franklin.

The Sydney Morning Herald / Getty Images

At the time the book generated twin controversies: 1) It was anti-Semitic in its portrayal of Jews within the story about the Ukrainian famine and the Holocaust; and 2) despite claims from "Demidenko" that she'd used her "Dad's memories of what the (Ukrainian) famine was like", it turned out her parents were English and she was exposed in the media as a "literary hoaxer".

"Demidenko" was actually born Helen Darville.

The Darville scandal was co-opted by both sides in the mid-to-late ’90s culture wars in Australia. In 1997, Darville was sacked by the Courier Mail newspaper after it revealed her weekly column "plagiarised the work of an American writer on the internet".

Darville re-emerged onto the scene a decade later as Helen Dale, writing for political publications and blogs. According to a recent report, Dale spent the years away from Australia completing study as a lawyer at Oxford and Edinburgh universities.

Dale briefly worked as a political staffer for libertarian senator David Leyonhjelm, before moving back to the UK, where she is now a regular writer for UK conservative magazine The Spectator.

This year, the spotlight has again fallen on Dale as news broke that the author was reissuing her controversial first novel, with her second book, a courtroom drama called Kingdom of the Wicked, set to be released in October.

In the wake of Vogt's discovery that Dale had published one of his tweets without credit on her Facebook, the podcast host was alerted to the fact she'd also appeared to refashion a 2014 tweet of his earlier this month.

One one occasion she wrote, "I have a friend who is a crossword setter for The Times and my appreciation for her level of nerdery is high rn", along with an image of a crossword.

Vogt told BuzzFeed News it was one of the weirdest things he's seen on the internet: "Honestly I see a lot of weird things on the internet and this is weirder than most of them."

"And then the weirdest part is I started to read through her Facebook page, and it really seems like every single time she posts something that isn't about her own life, it's an instance of plagiarism."

BuzzFeed asked Dale why she had been lifting the tweets. She replied over Twitter direct message: "Cos it's amusing and I don't like Twitter. And don't you have more important stuff to be writing about?"

Mark Di Stefano is a Media and Politics Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

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