"Doctor Zhivago" is a 1957 novel by the Russian author Boris Pasternak. Due to the novel's subject matter and it's stance on the Soviet Union and the October Revolution, the USSR refused to publish the novel and Pasternak had to publish it in Italy after it was smuggled into the country by a friend.The novel centers around the titular character, Yura Zhivago who is sent to live with … [Read more...]
Boris Pasternak was born on February 10th, 1890 in Moscow, Russia. The son of a wealthy painter and University professor and a concert pianist, Pasternak was of Jewish descent.
As a child, he was an excellent student and considered to be gifted by his teachers. In 1904, he was sent by his parents to a famous school for gifted boys called the Holy Dormition Pochayiv Lavra in western Ukraine where he learned history, music, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics and literature, among other things. Four years later, he attended the Moscow Conservatory to study music.
In 1912, he met a girl named Ida Wissotzkaya and fell in love when his father was painting the girl's portrait. But Ida's parents did not like Pasternak and persuaded her to refuse his marriage proposal. Her refusal of him inspired him to start writing poetry and many of the poems in his first published work "My Sister, Life" (1917) were about her.
After the outbreak of World War I, Pasternak began working in a chemical factory and teaching. Though most of his family chose to leave Russia after the October Revolution in 1917, he chose to stay on, continuing to write and make a name for himself as a poet.
In 1921, he published another work, "Rupture"; which was applauded by the pro-Soviet public. During the 1920's, Pasternak wrote several autobiographical stories and married Evgeniya Lurye, an art student. The two had a son, Evgenii a year later.
In the 1930's, Pasternak felt that his poems were going over the head of the less-educated public and took it upon himself to reshape his prose style in order to appeal to the masses. In 1932, he fell in love with another woman and divorced his wife to marry her.
In 1934, Pasternak became paranoid that he was begin investigated by Josef Stalin, an idea that was confirmed after a writer friend of his was arrested and Stalin called and spoke with him at his home. Pasternak insisted that he did not share his friend's views and Stalin hung up.
Pasternak continued to have close calls with the Soviets and the secret police as most Russian authors did during this time but was never arrested and escaped Stalin's Great Purge unscathed. During World War II, Pasternak served as a fire warden and visited the soldiers on the front lines, reading his poetry to them.
In 1946, Pasternak began having an affair with Olga Ivinskaya that would last for the rest of his life. In 1948, Olga was arrested by the KGB for her connection with Pasternak. Though she was later released after Stalin's death in 1953, this event affected Pasternak deeply.
In 1956, Pasternak completed his first novel, "Doctor Zhivago". The novel was refused publication in the USSR due to it's anti-socialist ideals. The novel was smuggled out of Russia by Pasternak's friend, Italian journalist Sergio d'Angelo The novel was a worldwide success and the following year, Pasternak was given a Nobel Prize in Literature.
Pasternak continued to write during the remainder of the 1950's and was at work on a trilogy of stage plays called "The Blind Beauty" when he became ill with lung cancer and passed away on May 30th, 1960.