Press Release: Penguin Books NZ – 17 November 2009
New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera is to purchase the remaining warehouse stock of the novel The Trowenna Sea from his publisher Penguin Group (NZ).
At the same time Penguin has announced that it is offering to take back stock from any bookseller who wishes to return the book.
Penguin publishing director Geoff Walker said that Penguin plans to publish a new edition of The Trowenna Sea in 2010. The new edition will contain a new section by the author explaining the background and making full acknowledgement to writers whose work has been drawn on.
‘I have taken this step to preserve the mana and integrity of the novel,’ Witi Ihimaera said. ‘Since it was published two weeks ago media scrutiny has revealed a small number of instances where I have inadvertently not acknowledged sources of historical material or unknowingly copied material.
‘Although I have already made the relevant apologies and have publicly undertaken to fully audit the book myself, it seemed appropriate to remove the first edition immediately and begin working on a corrected second edition.’
A historical novel, The Trowenna Sea tells the story of five Maori wrongly transported to Tasmania in the 1840s for taking up arms against the New Zealand government. They were temporarily incarcerated on Maria Island under the care of John Jennings Imrie and his wife Ettie Bailey. One of the prisoners, Hohepa te Umuroa, died while imprisoned and it is his remarkable life which is at the heart of the novel.
Said Geoff Walker: ‘All writers of historical fiction draw to some extent on the work of historians and others, and this is to be expected. It is a long and accepted tradition that goes back to Shakespeare, but clearly Witi Ihimaera has taken this extraordinary step to show that he is actively engaged in resolving the issues involved. We congratulate him on that. The Trowenna Sea is a very fine historical novel, which we’ve been very proud to publish.’