Penguin Random House is defending the author of one of its biggest books of the year from plagiarism claims made by Boris Pasternak’s great-niece.
Anna Pasternak’s book is a biography of Olga Ivinskaya, the Russian poet who inspired the character Lara in Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Prescott’s novel, about a CIA scheme to use Doctor Zhivago as anti-Soviet propaganda, features Ivinskaya as a main character.
In a letter she sent to Prescott, Anna Pasternak claimed that Prescott’s book contains similarities to her own that “exceed the mere inspiration a novelist may legitimately draw from a work of nonfiction.”
Penguin Random House noted that Ivinskaya’s story has been told in other books. “Anna Pasternak’s claims are simply without any merit, and it is disappointing that she has chosen to litigate in the press rather than wait for the response to her letter of complaint within the timeline requested by her own lawyers,” the publisher said.
The Secrets We Kept is one of Penguin Random House’s most publicized books of the year. Prescott (who was named after the Doctor Zhivago character) reportedly received a $2 million advance for the novel, which has already been translated into 29 languages.
Both Prescott and Pasternak were scheduled to participate in an event at Britian’s Cheltenham Literature Festival, the Guardian notes, but it has since been canceled.
Michael Schaub is an Austin, Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.