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Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Boris Pasternak

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was born into a wealthy assimilated Ukrainian Jewish family in Moscow, Russia on February 10, 1890.

His father was the Post-Impressionist artist, Leonid Pasternak, professor at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. His mother was Rosa Kaufman, a concert pianist.

Pasternak had a younger brother Alex and sisters Lydia and Josephine.

Boris (left) with his brother Alex; painting by their father, Leonid Pasternak

Leonid Pasternak was a friend of Leo Tolstoy, and for months he lived in Yasnaya Polyana, and painted many portraits of the great writer, also illustrating his novels War and Peace and Resurrection.

Boris remained in Russia when his father emigrated to Berlin in 1921.

His volumes of lyric poems include A Twin Cloud (1914) and. On Early Trains (1943). Pasternak's anthology My Sister, Life, is one of the most influential collections ever published in the Russian language. Furthermore, Pasternak's translations of plays by Goethe and Shakespeare are very popular with Russian audiences.

Boris Pasternak cropped

Outside Russia, Pasternak is best known as the author of Doctor Zhivago, a novel which takes place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the First World War. It deals with a Russian scientist's disillusion with the October Revolution.

Zhivago comes from the Russian word 'zhiv' meaning 'life'.


Pasternak started writing Doctor Zhivago around 1915 but did not finish it until 1956. Due to its independent minded stance on the socialist state, it was refused publication in the Soviet Union because it "rejected socialist realism".

The manuscript of Doctor Zhivago was smuggled to Italy and published in November 1957 in Milan by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. It was published in the US the following year on September 5, 1958.

Copy of the original Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago, covertly published by the CIA

The CIA secretly worked to influence the Nobel Committee to award Pasternak their 1958 Prize in Literature, an event which humiliated and enraged the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Pasternak had to decline the Nobel prize as he was told he would be denied re-entry to Russia if he went to collect it. He is still listed as the winner for that year. In 1989, Pasternak's son was finally allowed to go to Sweden to receive his father's Nobel medal.

By the time of his death from lung cancer on May 30, 1960, three months after his 70th birthday, the campaign against Pasternak had damaged the international credibility of the U.S.S.R.

Boris Pasternak's grave in Peredelkino in October 1983

David Lean's film of Dr Zhivago, released in 1965, won five Oscars. Concentrating on the love triangle aspects of the novel, the film became a worldwide blockbuster, but was unavailable in Russia until Perestroika. Omar Sharif played the title role, with his son Tarek Sharif playing the eight-year-old Zhivago.


Doctor Zhivago was finally published in the Soviet Union in 1988 and shown as a miniseries on Russian TV in 2006.

Pasternak is still a major figure in Russian literature. Furthermore, the samisdat methods were later continued, expanded, and refined by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and other Soviet dissidents.

Boris Pasternak is an anagram of 'Rather apt Russian book.'

Source Daily Express

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