Revisiting Pasternak

A glimpse into the life and work of Boris Pasternak, including selected poems, in Expartiate Literary Circle.

Pasternak was one of the rare poets to be popular during his lifetime. If he for got a Pasternak_01_1 line in one of his poems during a reading, the crowd would assist him. During the war, letters he received from the front line reminded him of the reach that his voice had. He did not want to lose this contact with the masses so Pasternak began a large novel that glorified freedom, independence, and a return to Christian religion that would become Dr. Zhivago. Basing the story on his own experience of wartime and revolution, Pasternak employed Yuri Zhivago as mouthpiece for his own philosophical and artistic beliefs. He presented Zhivago’s inability to influence his own fate not as a fault, but as a sign that he was destined to become an artistic witness to the tragedy of his age. The author closely identified Zhivago’s predicament with that of the suffering Christ.

The government’s postwar ideological clampdown forced Pasternak to labor on the manuscript in secret. Rejected in Russia, Doctor Zhivago was smuggled west in 1957 and published first in Italian and then in English in 1958. The epic novel about the life and loves of physician and poet Yuri Zhivago during the political upheavals of 20th-century Russia was acclaimed as a successful combination of lyrical, descriptive, and epic dramatic styles. The book, which concludes with a cycle of Zhivago’s poetry, was translated into 18 languages. In October 1958, Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition.