New York The Japanese woman who inspired the best-selling novel "Memoirs of a Geisha" has sued its author, contending he violated their confidentiality agreement and disparaged her reputation.
Mineko Iwasaki, 50, wants an unspecified percentage of the $10 million that the book has earned from writer Arthur Golden and his New York publisher, Random House.
Iwasaki, one of Japan's most famous geishas in the 1960s and '70s, charges that Golden took her life story, embellished it with outlandish lies and then exposed her as his primary source.
"She felt she had to do it to vindicate her name and her family's name," Iwasaki's lawyer, Dorothy Weber, said Tuesday after filing the lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan.
Golden's 1997 debut novel centers on a character named Nitta Sayuri, who was sold to a geisha house.
The geisha are purveyors of traditional Japanese music, dance and song. Under elaborate kimonos and thick white makeup, they also provide companionship to men.
"Golden repeatedly stated that Ms. Iwasaki was sold into the geisha world as a child by her parents and that her virginity was auctioned to the highest bidder when she came out as a geisha," the lawsuit says. "Both stories are patently untrue, and Golden has falsely represented them as fact."
In the book's acknowledgments, Golden singles out Iwasaki, writing, "I am indebted to one individual above all others ... to Mineko, thank you for everything."
Iwasaki argues that her name was not supposed to appear in print or be mentioned by Golden in publicity interviews.
Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum said the publishing house's lawyers have not seen the lawsuit. "But from what we know about the lawsuit, it's utterly baseless and totally without merit," he said.
Golden, who earned a master's degree in Japanese history from Columbia University, could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but he has scoffed at Iwasaki's charges in previous interviews.
"Memoirs of a Geisha" has sold more than 4 million copies in English, been translated into 21 languages and drawn interest from Hollywood.