...[Tal's lawyer, Gilad] Corinaldi prepared a brochure in which
he lined up, side by side, elements of the two novels that, he said, were
For example, Tal's book begins with a couple living in modern times
who reveal a story set during the Inquisition through a medieval family
manuscript written in Spanish and using the device of dreams.
These elements are also used to develop the story in Ragen's novel.
Both books begin with a family tree.
Some of the names that appear in the two novels are similar or identical:
in Tal's book, "Deigo Allegra," "Elvira," "Rinaldo,"
"Braudelein," "Aunt Maria" and "Angelica";
in Ragen's book, "Diogo Mendes," "Elvira," "Renaldo,"
"Brianda," "Aunt Malca," "Frangelica."
Corinaldi wrote that many of the themes and descriptions that appear
in Tal's book also appear in Ragen's. According to one example, Lorenzo
Di Paradisi, one of the main character's in Tal's book, is a state taxation
officer. He is described as "neither too soft-hearted nor too wavering
when he collected taxes. He could obtain the cooperation [of late-payers]
with his flashing smile, if necessary, with a stern look and harsh word."
In Ragen's book, Donna Gracia Mendes sometimes has to fight lawsuits
and collect taxes. "For these tasks," wrote Ragen in Donna
Gracia Mendes's character, "I found that I needed a cool head and
a clever tongue that knew how to caress as well as lash."
...Corinaldi told the Post he only went ahead with the legal action
after consulting with two literature experts who both concluded that
Ragen had copied from Tal's book. One of them told the Post in a telephone
conversation that she had gone over the material and concluded that
there was "an accumulation of elements" in Ragen's book that
came from Tal's. Neither she nor the other expert referred to by Corinaldi
were willing to identify themselves.
Intellectual property theft inflicts a particular kind of anguish—one
to which any writer who experiences it can testify. For me, the experience
was exacerbated not only by the fact that autobiographical accounts of
my personal life were reproduced without permission in a work of fiction,
but that they were used for purposes I find repugnant, differing radically
in intention from mine. Events in my life as an Orthodox Jew were used
in a work that degrades and condescends to Orthodox Jews. Some lines of
my account were reproduced word for word, some were obviously modified
to disguise the similarity, and some were embellished (for example, with
words such as "base" and "shameful") in such a way
that the accounts would conform to the pejorative image of Orthodox Jews
which Ms. Ragen's writings promote. Experiences which were in fact life-giving
and positive were given a spin whereby Orthodox observance of Judaism
is made to look superstitious, narrow, confining, small-minded, backward,
repressive, and whereby haredi adherents are often depicted as either
hypocritical evildoers (usually male) or melodramatic, helpless victims
(usually female) who must break free, valiantly and courageously, from
patronizing religious coercion, rabbinical oppression and their own neurotic
dependency. From the outset of this case, including the initial decision
as to whether or not to contact Michal Tal's attorney, all major steps
have been taken in accordance with daas Torah. The lawsuit was submitted
to the av bais din of the bais din Yerushalayim, Rav Dov Levine, and the
hearing is scheduled for this Wednesday.
Tal, author of The Lion and the Cross, emails Sept. 11, 2007:
As the author who initiated a plagiairism suit againt Naomi
Ragen, I'd like to add my comments to Sarah Shapiro's.
The discovery of one's words, creativity, literary devices, and characters
in another's book, feels like the greatest form of violation, or like
someone stole your child. In my case, part of the plagiraized material
came from my dreams , which were adapted for use in my novel. This intimate
form of inspired writing, taken and utilized by another, feels like
rape.On many levels, a book one has written is like their child; something
conceived and nurtured carefully and devotedly over time. Unlike hack
writers, who rely on tried and true formulas for all of their books,
real novelists don't use formulas, but invest hours of research, seek
exerpiences or sources for inspiration, record their dreams, which are
sometimes inserted into their story, and apply themsleves devotedly,
almost in a form of mania, to the act of creative writing. To have the
results of all of these efforts brazenly stolen from you, is devastating.
A relatively unknown author feels like the private citizen bullied by
a corporation. One is faced firstly, with utter disbelief by most. Why
would someone who adores an author believe the accusations of a stranger?
Secondly, a successful author has greater access to resources for protection
and justifcation, than does the "starving artist". Then there's
the hate feedback on the internet by Ragen fans.
The Jewish concept of "Im ain ani li mi li?" ("If I
am not for myself, who will be for me?") has come to my aid in
this case. Having the truth on one's side give a person incredible courage.
I would hope that this case come to its just conclusion, so that people
in the arts can view this case as an example of protection of the inviolate
creative and intellctual rights of the artist.
Do you think it is ethical to print charges against an author destroying
her reputation when the subject is under judicial review and will be
decided in the courts? Is it right to allow people to publicize these
charges with no rebuttal from the author? Are you aware of the fact
that the Cross-Currents website is run by Jonathan Rosenblum, who has
a long-held and well-documented personal bias against me and has attacked
me in the past in print for which he was sent a formal letter of complaint
by the editor of the Jerusalem Post?
Are you aware that Michal Tal's self-published book came out after
my book was already in the hands of a publishing house, and thus I could
not possibly have used any of her material, which had no relevance to
my book at all anyway? Are you aware that my book is the story of the
historical character Gracia Mendes, and hers is about a horny Milanese
tax collector and his equally horny son and a book that I felt embarrassed
to read when I was forced to do so by this court case? Are you aware
of the fact that Ms. Shapiro aired all her unfounded charges thirteen
years ago, and they were thoroughly examined and rejected by the legal
staff of Random House? Would you like to see the letter? Are you aware
that her book, her diary of her anger management classes, contains numerous
instances of her physically abusing her children? Are you aware that
both authors are represented by an attorney who sent me a letter saying
that if I didn't pay him "a considerable sum" under the table,
that he would "ruin" my reputation, by spreading these charges
on the internet? Are you aware that by posting these things you are
helping him to do this you and are now complicit in this attempt at
Naomi writes me 5/22/05:
I am doing some research and came across your website. To my shock
and surprise, I read the material about Vicki Polin. Considering the
serious allegations that she's made, I think it's important for me to
add the following information.
I met Vicki Polin on the internet when she and I were both actively
fighting CNN's biased reporting. Vicky started CNNwatch. I found her
work very useful to my own. When she wrote me that she was planning
on making Aliyah, but she had no place to stay until she could rent
an apartment, I offered her my home. She stayed with me for several
I got to talk with Vicki and I was shocked at both her behavior and
her appearance. I am very sympathetic to women claiming sexual abuse
in the Jewish world, and have met many bonafide victims. Vicki did not
seem to me to be mentally stable and I did not believe a word she said.
Moreover, after introducing her to many other activists against CNN,
she took serious loans from them and never paid them back. She ran up
a large phone bill in my home and never paid me. I believe she also
took the aliyah package from the Jewish Agency, even though she skipped
town soon afterwards. This kind of dishonesty shows character, and I
do not think Ms. Polin, for all her intelligence and for [all] the good
work that she does do, can be believed and trusted.
I email Naomi Ragen: "Approximately how much money did Vicki owe
you for your phone bill? Vicki says she paid you the $25 she owed you,
and if she owed you more, you never told her. How many dollars in loans
did Vicki rack up? Approximately?"