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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Geisha sues over book
Memoirs of a Geisha was a world-wide bestseller
A former geisha is suing the author of the best-selling book Memoirs of a Geisha accusing the writer and publisher of defamation, breach of contract and copyright violations.

Mineko Iwasaki, of Kyoto, Japan, filed the lawsuit in a New York federal court on Tuesday against writer Arthur Golden, seeking a percentage of the $10 million (6.9m) in sales generated by his book.

We intend to defend our author very vigorously and successfully

Stuart Applebaum, Random House
She is also seeking damages for using her life story as the basis of the book and violating an agreement to keep her identity secret.

In the lawsuit, Ms Iwasaki says she met Mr Golden in 1992 - 12 years after she retired as a geisha - and agreed to be interviewed by him on the condition of complete anonymity.

'One individual'

In an acknowledgement in the book, the author wrote: "I am indebted to one individual above all others. To Mineko, thank you for everything."

Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg has been lined up to direct a film version
The lawsuit says he also acknowledged her contributions during interviews and speaking engagements.

The ex-geisha says the book disparages her by "repeatedly stating that she was sold into the geisha world by her parents, and that her virginity was auctioned to the highest bidder when she came out as a geisha".

More than four million copies of the book have been sold worldwide and there are plans for a film version with Steven Spielberg as director.

The book was published to great acclaim in 1997, documenting the life of geisha Sayuri, who was born in a Japanese fishing village and who rose to life in high society.

'No agreement'

Mr Golden, a Harvard and Columbia graduate who spent several years researching the book, interviewed Ms Iwasaki a number of times in 1992 and reportedly has thanked her often.

The story of Sayuri's life in no way relates to Mineko's

Arthur Golden
Mr Golden has said there was no confidentiality agreement and that she agreed to let him tape their discussions, during which she spoke of losing her virginity.

On the publisher's website Mr Golden wrote: "I found Mineko to be a very kind woman with a generous spirit; we became and remain friends."

He said that the story of the geisha in his book was not based on Iwasaki's life directly.

'Superficial questions'

"I did draw on my knowledge of Mineko to create Sayuri. However, the story of Sayuri's life in no way relates to Mineko's.

"In fact, I've never asked Mineko anything beyond the most superficial questions about her history."

A spokesman for Random House said the publisher had not yet received the papers filed with the court on Tuesday, "but from what we've been told these allegations are totally baseless and completely without merit".

Spokesman Stuart Applebaum added that "should a legal action be pursued, we intend to defend our author very vigorously and successfully".

Also cited as defendants are Mr Golden's publisher, Alfred Knopf, and Random House, Knopf's parent company.

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