Boris Pasternak’s great-niece is suing the novelist for £2million saying she stole his book about Dr Zhivago


The great-niece of Boris Pasternak – the author of Dr Zhivago – is suing US novelist Lara Prescott for £2million, claiming she stole substantial parts of the book she wrote about her epic novel uncle, heard a court today.

Anna Pasternak claims that her book, Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago, was the unauthorized source of Lara Prescott’s fiction bestseller, The Secrets We Kept.

The Niece Book is a biography of Boris Pasternak and his mistress Olga Ivinskaya, who she claims is the inspiration for “Lara” in the classic 1957 novel.

Ms Prescott, who is named after Dr Zhivago’s central character Lara Antipova, agrees to copy part of the biography from her novel but denies it was “substantial”.

The great-niece of Dr Zhivago author Boris Pasternak, Anna Pasternak (pictured), claims her book, Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago, was the unauthorized source of the fiction bestseller Lara Prescott, The Secrets We Kept

Lara: The Untold Love Story and Inspiration of Doctor Zhivago by Anna Pasternak

The Secrets We've Kept by Lara Prescott

Ms Pasternak’s book, Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago by Anna Pasternak (left), is a biography of Boris Pasternak and his mistress Olga Ivinskaya, who she says is the inspiration for ‘ Lara’ in the classic 1957 novel. Novelist Lara Prescott is being sued for £2million for ‘stealing’ Ms Pasternak’s book from The Secrets We Kept (right)

Nicholas Caddick QC, for Ms Pasternak, told the High Court today: ‘Both books seek to tell the story in an engaging way, neither of them is trying to write a history book or a thesis …and that’s really what sets these two books apart from various other books mentioned in this case, the very sources.

“It’s also worth noting that both books are marketed as an attempt to give Olga a voice, a place in history, and we can see that in Lara herself, in the title: Lara: The Story unprecedented love that inspired Doctor Zhivago. .

“The thing is, both of these books have been very well received and we can see that in the reviews on the cover of Lara herself.”

Mr Caddick continued: “The defendant asserts that 95% [of Pasternak’s work] has been diverted or minimally adapted from other works but we will see later, while browsing it, that is simply not true and, in any case, that is what the defendant itself did.

He described the four key sources used by both Pasternak and Prescott, including Sergio D’Angelo’s “The Pasternak Affair”.

“The defense’s assertion that my client used this book extensively but failed to give it more than sparse attribution hardly seems fair, especially when The Secrets We Kept has no attribution, just a general recognition,” he said.

“There are 58 acknowledgments to The Affair in Lara, so it’s not fair to say there are few attributions.

“It is misleading in any case, as much of the information in The Affair is derived from ‘A Captive of Time’ [Olga Ivinskaya’s memoirs] and A Captive of Time is cited very highly in my client notes to Lara.

Pasternak’s and Prescott’s works are also based on Legendy Potapovskogo pereulka, the memoirs of Irina Kosovi, Olga’s daughter.

In 2014, while writing her book, Pasternak commissioned a partial translation of “Legends” and alleges that Prescott infringed copyright by taking translated passages from Lara and using them in her own work.

Lara Prescott (pictured), who is named after Dr Zhivago's central character Lara Antipova, agrees to copy part of Ms Pasternak's book into her novel but denies it was

Lara Prescott (pictured), who is named after Dr Zhivago’s central character Lara Antipova, agrees to copy part of Ms Pasternak’s book into her novel but denies it was ‘substantial’

Mr Caddick said: ‘My learned friend comments on the sloppy nature of the translation.

“He was not commissioned to produce something that would be widely distributed and, in any event, the court is not concerned with the objective quality of the translation but…whether the defendant has appropriated [Pasternak’s] artistic and intellectual creation.

“The meaning of Legendes is twofold. First, the fact that the text of Legendes ended up in the defendant’s book tends to show that the defendant had access to it and copied it.

“The Legendes claim therefore reinforces the Lara claim, but there is a separate claim which is also the very fact that the defendant used text also gives rise to a separate claim of copyright infringement.”

British journalist Anna Pasternak does not claim that Prescott “textually copied” her work, but claims that she took her selection and arrangement of material to be included and excluded in the story.

Mr Caddick told the court: “This case is not based on a verbatim copy.

“Both sides use ‘textual copy’, but it’s misleading if you mean ‘linguistic’ or ‘linguistic copy’.

Dr. Zhivago is Boris Pasternak's most famous work and the subject of David Lean's 1965 blockbuster of the same title, in which Lara is played by Julie Christie.

Dr. Zhivago is Boris Pasternak’s most famous work and the subject of David Lean’s 1965 blockbuster of the same title, in which Lara is played by Julie Christie.

“Text-based copy is a handy shortcut, but the point is, text isn’t just words, but the process of deciding, forming, selecting, and organizing.”

The Duchess of Cambridge’s cousin, Lucy Middleton, was involved in the case last year as lead counsel for publishers Penguin Random House – which published The Secrets We Kept.

Anna Pasternak’s book was written to find inspiration for the central character of her great-uncle, Lara, arguing that she was based on his mistress Olga Ivinskaya.

Dr. Zhivago is Boris Pasternak’s most famous work and the subject of David Lean’s 1965 blockbuster of the same title, in which Lara is played by Julie Christie.

The novel follows the love story of two main characters, Yuri Zhivago and Lara Antipova, during the Russian Revolution and World War I.

The hearing continues.

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