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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Jonah Lehrer’s German publisher will release adjusted version of Imagine sans fabricated quotes

with 5 comments

imagineAn edited version of Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine, the book withdrawn from shelves in 2012 by his publisher Houghton Mifflin because he had fabricated quotes by Bob Dylan, will be released in Germany next month, according to a report in the German media.

In a story titled “Free ride for the falsifier” (“Freie Fahrt für den Fälscher”), Buchreport.de reports (via Google Translate) that despite the known fabrications, “the publisher wants to keep the book on creativity:”

As the publisher notified buchreport.de, the German edition of “Imagine”, which was originally scheduled for August 2012, will be published in February 2014 by CH Beck Paperback. This decision was taken after a thorough examination and detailed discussion. The author has sent extensive corrections for fake Dylan quotes, and other errors or misunderstandings were also adjusted. In addition, we have had a German cognitive scientist read the book.

Following revelations that Lehrer had duplicated his own work in The New Yorker and elsewhere, Lehrer’s fabrications in Imagine were uncovered by Michael Moynihan in Tablet magazine in July 2012. In the aftermath, Imagine was one of two books withdrawn by his publishers.

But Lehrer scored a new book deal in June 2013 with Simon & SchusterSlate’s Daniel Engber suggested there might be plagiarism in that book proposal, too.

Eerie bonus: In September 2011, On The Media featured Retraction Watch and a pre-disgraced Lehrer in the same episode.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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Written by Ivan Oransky

January 3, 2014 at 7:50 pm

5 Responses

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  1. At the first glance, you might wonder: If this book can be salvaged with a few corrections and adjustments, why does the American publisher not launch an overhauled version in English language? (Will he?) But you have to know that the name Jonah Lehrer has not been tarnished here in Germany. Most people, even those you read books like this one, have not heard anything about the whole affair. So they might manage to pull this through and portray him as that fabulous wunderkind. And he has still got a mighty literary agent, Andrew Wylie, also called “the jackal”.

    Rolf Degen

    January 4, 2014 at 4:42 am

  2. The fabricated quotes and plagiarism were the least of the book’s problems.

    For the best summary, see:



    January 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    • My heavens this is so very true. His written work for New Yorker as well as his three books betray an ignorance of neurobiology (facts and concepts) that is breath-taking. But he was anointed king of neuroscience and would still be so regarded by the popular press had he the sense to make up quotes by someone other than a legendary song writer. Now, that is the real scandal.


      January 9, 2014 at 5:18 pm

  3. I don’t see what the problem is. The book is about creativity. Fraud is inherently a creative act.

    There is no ethical problem with publishing fiction, even fictional quotes of real people. Those quotes might be libelous, which is a different question.

    Dan Zabetakis

    January 6, 2014 at 10:36 am

  4. This is not happening. At Amazon, they are selling a so called “eSpresso Summary” of Lehrer’s Imagine. A 26 pages long abridged edition or some CliffsNotes to the great pretender.This came out WELL AFTER the publisher pulled the original from the shelves. I wonder if they also shortened the fake Bob Dylan quotes..

    Rolf Degen

    January 21, 2014 at 3:58 am

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