A relatively unknown novelist, Michal Tal, has sued Naomi Ragen for copyright infringement. Tal claims that The best-selling The Ghost of Hannah Mendes, published in 1998, is little more than a rip-off of her The Lion and the Cross.
Yesterday, the Jerusalem District Court issued a temporary injunction ordering Regan to stop distributing and selling her book.
The two novels are set against the backdrop of the Inquisition. Coninaldi, lawyer for Tal charged that Regan had copied “the idea, the structural form, the characters, the development of the story line and the book cover form Tal’s original creation”.
Regan’s lawyer, Moser claims that her client had not heard of Tal, nor read the book, prior to her own book publishing and that she had began writing her novel before Tal’s published.
Personally, I have not read either book. For the court to issue a temporary injunction there should be a good prima facie case against Regan, or at least a strong similarity between the books that indicates plagiarism. The first hearing is scheduled for March 7th, so if the evidence is not convincing, the injunction may be removed.
Ephraim Kishon aside, Naomi Ragen is probably Israel’s best selling author. Like Kishon, her religious and political affiliations have done little to enamour her to Israel’s cultural elite.
I confess that I first read Regan’s blockbusters Sotah and Jepthah’s Daughter only last year. (It was probably intellectual snobery that caused me to dismiss best selling books aimed at the female readership as some sort of Barbera Cartland / Mills & Boon type trash unworthy of my attention. I couldn’t be more mistaken). I was surprised to discover that her books display all the elements of quality literature, and, perhaps more importantly, raise social questions and challenge accepted views. Regan has managed to be critical of Ultra Orthodox (Haredi) culture without descending to the type of primitive antisemitism displayed by secular authors in plays such as Fleisher.
Regan sees individuals, including the villains of her stories, as the product of their upbriging and victims of circumstance. It is not unlikely that her books are serving to catalyze societal change, and no author can ask for more than that.
We note that a similar case was brought in the UK last year against Dan Brown, claiming that the International Best Seller, the Da Vinci Codes was a rip-off of an earlier work claiming Jesus’ blood line.