The scandal related to the accusation of the famous writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya of plagiarism caused a huge number of responses among the Russian intelligentsia. Recall that the chemist and writer Natalya Rapoport, now living in the United States, was offended in her blog by the fact that Ulitskaya did not mention her name as a co-author in the published film script. The opinions of the commentators were divided: some unconditionally believed Rapoport's version, others were convinced of Ulitskaya's innocence, and still others (they turned out to be a minority) simply called for an end to this outrage without finding out who was right and who was wrong. Moreover, Ulitskaya herself, who, as you know, almost does not use social networks, refused to respond to the accusations of her “co-author”, saying that she “no longer exists” for her...
Translator and film director Alexander Smolyansky still managed to persuade Lyudmila Ulitskaya to comment on this situation, about which he wrote in his blog:
“For several days, an indecent squabble has been going on on Facebook, initiated on her page by one quite respectable lady.
In principle, I do not participate in such things, I would have kept silent this time too, if it had not been for Lyudmila Ulitskaya, a close friend and dear person to me. This lady accused LU of plagiarism.
LU herself almost never happens on Facebook, and she was surprised to learn about the existence of her own page from me. Perhaps the page is run by her fans.
This lady and I have many common acquaintances who began to send me disgusting quotes in personal messages and ask why LU is silent, why I am silent when several of LU's friends have already spoken out in her defense.
I was silent because at first I did not know anything about this story at all, and when I found out, I remembered the effect of Barbra Streisand. But the main thing is that I do not know the details of that story at all, and everyone has memory aberrations.
But I have known LU well for many years, saw her in a variety of life circumstances and can responsibly and calmly say that she is a person of almost pathological decency, disinterestedness, honor and honesty. She is not capable of any theft simply by her internal structure.
Why did so many people support the accusation of the beloved writer on the Internet? Pushkin gave the answer long ago in his famous letter: “the crowd eagerly reads confessions, notes, etc., because in their meanness they rejoice at the humiliation of the tall, the weaknesses of the mighty. At the discovery of any abomination, she is delighted. He is small as we are, he is disgusting as we are!" Then it goes: "You're lying, scoundrels: he is both small and disgusting - not like you - otherwise"; but this does not apply to LU, its human scale is known.
For me, this story is a grotesque example of a dangerous disease now spreading. I'm not talking about coronavirus, but about victimization, when fame is achieved through resentment against others. The one who is more offended is the hero.
It hurts me for publicly insulting my friend, and doubly painful that it was this very respectable lady - "from a good family," who insulted her father - a worthy person who became a victim of slanderous attacks in the early fifties, during the the definition should be "own". And now his daughter is joining (willingly or unwillingly, I don’t know and cannot know) in the campaign of public harassment launched against LU not only on the Internet. Bitter, very bitter.
I didn’t want to name this lady, but, probably, many already understood that we were talking about Natalia Rapoport, NR, although it would be better to shorten it to RAPP, because it was the Rapp people who subjected their enemies to defamation in a similar style.
I wrote a letter to LU, in which I asked several questions in order to clarify, first of all, for myself the essence of the current swara.
I understand that people often quarrel over misunderstandings, usually everyone has their own truth, but in any Rasemon story one must be able to put an end to it.
LU replied to my letter. I think it would be fair to give the floor to the other side. In FB, she almost never happens and therefore was essentially defenseless against accusations.
With the permission of LU, here is an excerpt from our private correspondence.
- You were publicly insulted, accused of plagiarism. I have absolutely no knowledge of the story that NR writes about. What's happening?
- We met NR in the house of Irina Pavlovna Uvarova and Yuli Daniel. She was their housemate and often visited them. Many famous people could be found in Daniel's house. NR is a bright, talented, sociable person, she fits perfectly into the feast. There, at the table, I heard this story.
At that time I entered filmmaking courses. As far as I remember, at first the classes were held in the Soyuzmultfilm building, in the form of seminars, and it seems they were not even called courses. The best masters came to classes - Vladimir Golovanov, Yuri Norshtein. I am afraid to mention other names, suddenly I will be mistaken, and it will be interpreted wrongly. Then classes began to be called courses. I then wrote scripts for cartoons, several were staged. In a word, I already felt like a person involved in cinema.
Now to our story with NR and the plague of 1939. The theme of the script belonged to her, but it was not her own idea, because plague-39 is a real story that hundreds of participants knew about - doctors, NKVD officers and people taken into quarantine. As you can imagine, copyright does not apply to historical facts and table talk. From whom the initiative to write the script came, I do not remember. Maybe from me, maybe from her. We worked together for a very short time - I quickly realized that she was not suitable for co-authors. Why - I am not developing the topic. At home at the Airport she visited me exactly once with several episodes written by her, which did not suit me at all. And I wrote the script myself, without her participation. She did not put her as a co-author. However, later, when the script began to appear as part of my collections, there is information everywhere with her name as the person from whom I learned this story. Her name is accurately mentioned in the German and French translations of the book.
One of the producers has already commented on the fact that the script was not purchased and was not put into production either. There was no talk of any director at all, this issue was not considered before the acquisition of the script.
Perhaps, this could have been an end if it were not for the coronavirus epidemic. It seemed to me that publishing this script during the tough times of the epidemic could help people cope with the fear and depression that has seized everyone.
- Why didn't you answer for so long? And why are you answering on Facebook that you don't use?
- I would not answer. Why should I answer a person I know who does not write to me personally, does not call me on the phone, but starts with a public quarrel on a platform that I am not familiar with? But many people - both close friends and people more distant - insist that such an outrage should not be left unanswered.
Why FB? So the NR material was published in FB. I gave an interview about this to Zoya Svetova for Novaya Gazeta, and then I thought about it and asked her not to publish it. I do not want to participate in such a "garbage" business. Here, now I give you an explanation.
- What would you say to NR if you were sitting in the kitchen with her now?
- I would not sit with her in the same kitchen. The kitchen in which we sat was the kitchen of Irina Pavlovna Uvarova. Ira died on January 27 this year. And during Ira's lifetime, NR would not have dared to write all this. But, if I had been next to her, I would have said the following: dear Natasha! Your complaint is that I turned old table conversations into a work of art. This is precisely the profession of a writer - to process life impressions, experience and knowledge into texts. I am sorry that my book caused such a painful reaction in you. Do not discern in this, please, causticity or ridicule, but I really think that your reaction to a literary text is inadequate. I will not return to this story any more..."