Boris (Leonidovich) Pasternak (1890-1960)


pasternak.jpg (9407 bytes)Russian poet, whose novel DOKTOR ZHIVAGO brought him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958. Pasternak had to decline the honour because the protests in his home country. The novel was banned in the Soviet Union and Pasternak was expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers. After Doctor Zhivago had reached the West, it was soon translated into 18 languages. Pasternak was rehabilitated posthumously in 1987, which made possible the publication of his major work.

"We cease to recognize reality. It manifests itself in some new category. And this category appears to be its own inherent condition and not our own. Apart from this condition everything in the world has a name. Only it is new and is not yet named. We try to name it - and the result is art." (from Safe Conduct, 1931)

Pasternak was born into a prominent Jewish family in Moskow, where his father, Leonid Pasternak, was a professor at the Moscow School of Painting. His mother, Rosa Kaufman, was an acclaimed concert pianist. Their home was open to such guests as Sergei Rachmaninoff, Aleksandr Scriabin, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Tolstoy. Inspired by Scriabin, Palsternak entered the Moscow Conservatory, but gave up his studied in 1910. He studied philosophy at the Marburg University in Germany, and returned to Moscow in the winter of 1913-14.

As a poet Pasternak made his debut with the collection BLIZNETS V TUCHAKN (1914). During World War I Pasternak worked as a private tutor and at a chemical factory in the Ural Mountais. The journey to the Ural gave him material for Doctor Zhivago.Pastenak supportet the Revolution but was horrified by the brutality of the new government.

After the Revolution of 1917 Pasternak worked as a librarian. With the books Over the Barriers (1917) and My Sister - Life (1922) he gained fame as a prominent new poet. In the early 1920s Pasternak wrote autobiographical and political poetry, and some short stories, which were collected in The Childhood of Luvers (1922). He married in 1922 Evgeniia Vladimirovna Lourie. They hand one son, but the marriage dissolved in 1931. In 1934 he married Zinaida Nikolaevna Neigauz; they had one son.

From the mid-1920s Pasternak moved away from personal themes. He began to study historical and moral problems in such works as VOZHUSHNYE PUTI, a prose piece, and in the poem The Year Nineteen Five. When the Writer's Union increasingly imposed on the docrine of socialist realism, he gradually ceased to produce original work. Socialist themes did not attract Pasternak who was interested in ethical-philosophical issues.

In the 1930s and 1940s Pasternak's works didn't gain authorities favour and they were not printed. Stalin's respect of Pasternak, who did not die in the Gulag Archipelago, remains one of the mysteries of the Soviet dictator's behavior. Unable to publish his own poetry Pasternak became a translator, selecting works from such authors as William Shakespear(Hamlet), J.W. von Goethe (Faust), Heinrich Kleist (Prinz Friedrich von Homburg), Paul Verlaine and Rainer Maria Rilke. With Rilke he had a brief correspondence, which was cut short by Rilke's death.

During World War II Pasternak wrote patriotic verses, and published a collection of poems, NA RANNIKH POYEZDAKH in 1943. Another collection appeared in 1945, followed by a selection of earlier poetry in 1947. His last book of poetry was When the Weather Clears (1960), written through the 1950s. As in his earlier verse, he used religious motifs and drew parallels with art and death. "With secret trembling, to the end, / I will thy long and moving service / In tears of happiness attend".

Pasternak's disagreement with Soviet Communism was not political but rather philosophical and moral. In a personal letter to the premier Nikita Khrushchev he expressed the hope that he would be allowed to remain in his home country after continuing attacks against his work. "And keep on grinding / Everything that happened to me / For almost forty years, / Into a churchyard compost". Pasternak remained at Peredelkino quietly, writing until his death from lung cancer on May 30, 1960. Pasternak's son accepted his father's Nobel Prize medal at a ceremony in Stockholm in 1989.

"Pasternak loved Russia. He was prepared to forgive his country all its shortcomings, all, save the barbarism of Stalin's reign; but even that, in 1945, he regarded as the darkness before the dawn which he was straining his eyes to detect - the hope expressed in the last chapters of Doctor Zhivago." (Isaiah Berlin in The Proper Study of Mankind, 1998)

Doktor Zhivago - rejected by the Soviet journal Novye Mir and published first in Russian and in Italian translation by the publisher Feltrinelli in Milan in 1957, English translation in 1958. The book was banned in the Soviet Union for three decades and did not appear until 1988 in Novye Mir. Doctor Zhivago has been recognized by many as the greatest Russian novel of the 20th century. It is partly autobiography and partly epic novel, a many-layered story starting from the year 1903, when Iurii Zhivago's mother died. His father commits suicide through the malign influence of his lawyer, Komarovskii. The boy is brought up in the Gromenko family. Durig this time Zhivago finds his call to poetry and decides to become a doctor. Simultaneously Lara Guishar is seduced in her teens by Komarovskii, and she marries Pasha Antipov. Zhivago qualifies as a doctor, marries, and has a child. He meets Lara during World War I, they fall in love. He moves with his family to Urals and meets there Lara. Zhivago chooses a life with her, but is captured by local partisans. Zhivago escapes and makes his way back to Lara. Meanwhile his family has returned to Moskow. Komorovskii discovers Lara and Zhivago. They are a safe conduct to the east. Lara follows with Komorowskii him expecting that Zhivago will follow shortly. He meets Lara's husband Pasha, who commits suicide disillusioned with the Revolution. Zhivago returns to Moskow. He dies years later of a weak heart. Lara reappears before his burial. Zhivago's friends collect his poetry.- Zhivago was partly modelled on Pasternak and Lara on his companion, Olga Ivanskaya, who was arrested when Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Note:  This bio was copied from somewhere on the web, it is not an original. 


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