Boris Pasternak (10 February 1890 - 30 May 1960 / Moscow)
Biography of Boris Pasternak
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was a Russian language poet, novelist, and literary translator. In his native Russia, Pasternak's anthology My Sister Life, is one of the most influential collections ever published in the Russian language. Furthermore, Pasternak's theatrical translations of Goethe, Schiller, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, and William Shakespeare remain deeply popular with Russian audiences.
Outside Russia, Pasternak is best known for authoring Doctor Zhivago, a novel which spans the last years of Czarist Russia and the earliest days of the Soviet Union. Banned in the USSR, Doctor Zhivago was smuggled to Milan and published in 1957. Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature the following year, an event which both humiliated and enraged the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In the midst of a massive campaign against him by both the KGB and the Union of Soviet Writers, Pasternak reluctantly agreed to decline the Prize. In his resignation letter to the Nobel Committee, Pasternak stated the reaction of the Soviet State was the only reason for his decision.
By the time of his death from lung cancer in 1960, the campaign against Pasternak had severely damaged the international credibility of the U.S.S.R. He remains a major figure in Russian literature to this day. Furthermore, tactics pioneered by Pasternak were later continued, expanded, and refined by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and other Soviet dissidents.
Pasternak was born in Moscow on 10 February, (Gregorian), 1890 (Julian 29 January) into a wealthy Russian Jewish family which had been received into the Russian Orthodox Church. His father was the Post-Impressionist painter, Leonid Pasternak, professor at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. His mother was Rosa Kaufman, a concert pianist and the daughter of industrialist Isadore Kofman. Shortly before his birth, Pasternak's parents had left the Orthodox Church for Tolstoyan Christianity. Leo Tolstoy was not only a close family friend. Pasternak later recalled, "my father illustrated his books, went to see him, revered him, and ...the whole house was imbued with his spirit."
In a 1956 essay, Pasternak recalled his father feverishly compiling illustrations for Tolstoy's novel Resurrection. The novel was then serialized in the journal Niva by the publisher Fyodor Marx, based in St Petersburg. The sketches were drawn from observations in such places as courtrooms, prisons and on trains, in spirit of realism. To ensure that the sketches met the journal deadline train conductors were enlisted to personally collect the illustrations. Pasternak wrote, "My childish imagination was struck by the sight of a train conductor in his formal railway uniform, standing waiting at the door of the kitchen as if he were standing on a railway platform at the door of a compartment that was just about to leave the station. Joiner's glue was boiling on the stove. The illustrations were hurriedly wiped dry, fixed, glued on pieces of cardboard, rolled up, tied up. The parcels, once ready, were sealed up with sealing wax and handed to the conductor."
According to Max Hayward, "In November 1910, when Tolstoy fled from his home and died in the stationmaster's house at Astapovo, Leonid Pasternak was informed by telegram and he went there immediately, taking his son Boris with him, and made a drawing of Tolstoy on his deathbed."
Regular visitors to the Pasternak's home also included Sergei Rachmaninoff, Alexander Scriabin, Lev Shestov, Rainer Maria Rilke. Pasternak aspired first to be a musician. Inspired by Scriabin, Pasternak briefly was a student at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1910 he abruptly left for the German University of Marburg, where he studied under Neo-Kantian philosophers Hermann Cohen and Nicolai Hartmann.
Pasternak fell in love with Ida Vysotskaya, a girl from a notable Moscow family of tea merchants. Pasternak had encountered her at the final class of high school. He helped her prepare for finals. She came to Marbugh unannounced during the summer of 1912, and he told of her of his love, as recounted in the poem "Marburg" (1917).
Although Professor Cohen encouraged him to remain in Germany and to pursue a Philosophy doctorate, Pasternak decided against it. Ultimately, he returned to Moscow upon the outbreak of World War I. His first poetry anthology was published later that year. In the aftermath, Pasternak proposed marriage to Ida. However, the Vysotsky family was disturbed by Pasternak's poor prospects and persuaded Ida to refuse him. It was said Ida died in poverty.
Pasternak responded by channelling his grief and frustration into his next anthology, Safe Conduct. His early verse cleverly dissimulates his preoccupation with Immanuel Kant's philosophy. Its fabric includes striking alliterations, wild rhythmic combinations, day-to-day vocabulary, and hidden allusions to his favourite poets such as Rilke, Lermontov, Pushkin and German language Romantic poets.
During World War I, Pasternak taught and worked at a chemical factory in Vsevolodovo-Vilve near Perm, which undoubtedly provided him with material for Dr. Zhivago many years later.
Unlike the rest of his family and many of his closest friends, Pasternak did not leave Russia after the October Revolution. According to Max Hayward:
Pasternak remained in Moscow throughout the Civil War (1918-1920), making no attempt to escape abroad or to the White-occupied south, as a number of other Russian writers did at the time. No doubt, like Yuri Zhivago, he was momentarily impressed by the "splendid surgery" of the Bolshevik seizure of power in October 1917, but – again to judge by the evidence of the novel, and despite a personal admiration for Lenin, whom he saw at the 9th Congress of Soviets in 1921 – he soon began to harbor profound doubts about the claims and credentials of the regime, not to mention its style of rule. The terrible shortages of food and fuel, and the depredations of the Red Terror, made life very precarious in those years, particularly for the "bourgeois" intelligentsia. In a letter written to Pasternak from abroad in the twenties, Marina Tsvetayeva reminded him of how she had run into him in the street in 1919 as he was on the way to sell some valuable books from his library in order to buy bread. He continued to write original work and to translate, but after about the middle of 1918 it became almost impossible to publish. The only way to make one's work known was to declaim it in the several "literary" cafes which then sprang up, or – anticipating samizdat – to circulate it in manuscript. It was in this way that My Sister Life first became available to a wider audience.
Pasternak (second from left) with friends including Lilya Brik, Eisenstein (third from left) and Mayakovsky (centre).
When it finally was published in 1921, Pasternak's My Sister Life revolutionised Russian poetry. It made Pasternak the model for younger poets, and decisively changed the poetry of Osip Mandelshtam, Marina Tsvetayeva and others.
Following My Sister Life, Pasternak produced some hermetic pieces of uneven quality, including his masterpiece, the lyric cycle Rupture (1921). Authors such as Vladimir Mayakovsky, Andrey Bely, Anna Akhmatova and Vladimir Nabokov applauded Pasternak's poems as works of pure, unbridled inspiration. In the late 1920s, he also participated in the much celebrated tripartite correspondence with Rilke and Tsvetayeva.
After the ascension of Joseph Stalin, Pasternak increasingly felt that his colourful style was at odds with the dictator's demand for Socialist Realism. He attempted to make his poetry more comprehensible to the censors by reworking his earlier pieces and starting two lengthy poems on the Russian Revolution of 1905. He also turned to prose and wrote several autobiographical stories, notably The Childhood of Luvers and Safe Conduct. By 1932, Pasternak had strikingly reshaped his style to make it acceptable to the Soviet public and printed the new collection of poems aptly titled The Second Birth. Although its Caucasian pieces were as brilliant as the earlier efforts, the book alienated the core of Pasternak's refined audience abroad, which was largely composed of anti-communist White emigres. He simplified his style and language even further for his next collection of verse, Early Trains (1943), which prompted his former patron, Vladimir Nabokov, to mock Pasternak as a "weeping Bolshevik" and "Emily Dickinson in trousers."
Reluctant to conform to Socialist Realism, Pasternak turned to translation. He soon produced acclaimed translations of Sandor Petofi, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Verlaine, Taras Shevchenko, and Nikoloz Baratashvili. Osip Mandelstam, however, privately warned him, "Your collected works will consist of twelve volumes of translations, and only one of your own work."
In a 1942 letter, Pasternak declared, "I am completely opposed to contemporary ideas about translation. The work of Lozinski, Radlova, Marshak, and Chukovski is alien to me, and seems artificial, soulless, and lacking in depth. I share the nineteenth century view of translation as a literary excericise demanding insight of a higher kind than that provided by a merely philiogical approach."
Pasternak's translations of William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, Othello, King Henry IV (Parts I and II), Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear) remain deeply popular with Russian audiences because of their colloquial, modernised dialogues. Paternak's critics, however, accused him of "pasternakizing" Shakespeare. In a 1956 essay, Pasternak wrote, "Translating Shakespeare is a task which takes time and effort. Once it is undertaken, it is best to divide it into sections long enough for the work to not get stale and to complete one section each day. In thus daily progressing through the text, the translator finds himself reliving the circumstances of the author. Day by day, he reproduces his actions and he is drawn into some of his secrets, not in theory, but practically, by experience."
According to Olga Ivinskaya, however, translation was not a genuine vocation for Pasternak. She later recalled:
One day someone brought him a copy of a British newspaper in which there was a double page feature under the title, "Pasternak Keeps a Courageous Silence." It said that if Shakespeare had written in Russian he would have written in the same way he was translated by Pasternak... What a pity, the article continued, that Pasternak published nothing but translations, writing his own work for himself and a small circle of intimate friends. "What do they mean by saying that my silence is courageous?" [Boris Leonidovich] commented sadly after reading all this. "I am silent because I am not printed."
The Stalin Epigram
During the later 1930s, Pasternak became increasingly disillusioned with Communism. He remained a close friend of Anna Akhmatova, as well as Osip Mandelstam. Mandelstam recited his searing indictment of Stalin, the Stalin Epigram, to Pasternak soon after its composition in late April 1934. After listening, Pasternak told Mandelstam, "I didn't hear this, you didn't recite it to me, because, you know, very strange and terrible things are happening now: they've begun to pick people up. I'm afraid the walls have ears and perhaps even these benches on the boulevard here may be able to listen and tell tales. So let's make out that I heard nothing."
On the night of May 14, 1934, Mandelstam was arrested at his home based on a warrant signed by NKVD boss Genrikh Yagoda. Devastated, Pasternak went immediately to the offices of Izvestia and begged Nikolai Bukharin to intercede on Mandelstam's behalf.
According to Olga Ivinskaya, Pasternak was deeply upset by Mandelstam's arrest. He was concerned for his friend but he also worried that he might be blamed for fingering Mandelstam to the secret police. Ivinskaya writes that Pasternak "raced frantically all over town, telling everybody that he was not to blame and denying responsibility for Mandelstam's disappearance, which for some reason he thought might be laid at his door.
Soon after his meeting with Bukharin, the telephone rang in Pasternak's Moscow apartment. A voice from The Kremlin said, "Comrade Stalin wishes to speak with you." According to Ivinskaya, Pasternak was struck dumb. "He was totally unprepared for such a conversation. But then he heard his voice, the voice of Stalin, coming over the line. The Leader addressed him in a rather bluff uncouth fashion, using the familiar thou form: 'Tell me, what are they saying in your literary circles about the arrest of Mandelstam?' ". Flustered, Pasternak denied that there was any discussion. Stalin went on to ask him for his own opinion of Mandelstam. In an "eager fumbling manner" Pasternak distanced himself from his friend, claiming there had been no contact been the schools of the two poets. Ivinskaya writes that he "went on for quite a time in this vein. Stalin gave him no encouragement whatsoever, not interjecting, or uttering a sound of any kind. At last B[oris] L[eonidovich] came to a halt. Stalin then said, in a mocking tone of voice: "I see, you just aren't able to stick up for a comrade," and put down the receiver.
Years later, Pasternak recalled that he was horrified at how the conversation had ended. He repeatedly telephoned the Kremlin's number, begging to be reconnected to Stalin. Instead, Pasternak was told, "Comrade Stalin is busy." He became frantic, pacing around his apartment repeating over and over that he must write to Stalin to explain what he had meant and tell him that injustices were being committed in the name of the Leader. Pasternak later did write and send just such a letter.
According to Pasternak, during the 1937 show trial of General Iona Yakir and Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, the Union of Soviet Writers requested all members to add their names to a statement supporting the death penalty for the defendants. They demanded Pasternak's signature as well, but he refused to give it. Vladimir Stavski, the chairman of the Union, was terrified that he himself would be punished for Pasternak's dissent. The leadership of the Union travelled to Peredelkino and severely threatened Pasternak, who still refused to sign the statement. After returning home to their dacha, a pregnant Zinaida Pasternak threw herself on the floor, weeping and accusing her husband of risking the destruction of their family. Pasternak, however, still would not be moved. They expected to be arrested that evening. They later learned that an NKVD agent was hiding in the bushes outside their window and heard everything.
Soon after, Pasternak appealed directly to Stalin. He wrote about his family's strong Tolstoyan convictions, which he still held dear. He declared that his own life was at Stalin's disposal but said that he could not stand as a self-appointed judge of life and death. Pasternak was certain that he would be instantly arrested, but he was not. Stalin is said to have crossed Pasternak's name off an execution list during the Great Purge. According to Pasternak himself, Stalin declared, "Do not touch this cloud dweller."
According to Stalin's biographer, Simon Sebag Montefiore, the Boss was well aware that Mandelstam, Pasternak, and Bulgakov were geniuses, but ordered their writings suppressed. As Bulgakov and Pasternak never attacked him openly, they were never arrested. According to Ivinskaya, however, "I believe that between Stalin and Pasternak there was an incredible, silent duel."
World War II
After the outbreak of war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, Pasternak was elated. When the Luftwaffe began bombing Moscow, Pasternak immediately began to serve as a fire warden on the roof of the writer's building on Lavrushinski Street. According to Olga Ivinskaya, he repeatedly helped to dispose of German bombs which fell on it.
In 1943, Pasternak was finally granted permission to visit the soldiers at the front. He bore up well, considering the hardships of the marching and he wanted to go to the most dangerous places. He read his poetry and talked extensively with the active and injured troops.
With the end of the war in 1945, there was a great expectation that the Soviet people would not only see the end of the devastation of Nazism, but also the end of Stalin's Purges. However, sealed trains began carrying large numbers of prisoners to the Soviet gulags. Some were Nazi collaborators who had fought under Vlasov, but most were ordinary Soviet officers and men. Pasternak watched as troops were directly transferred from Nazi to Soviet concentration camps. Russian emigres who had returned due to pledges of amnesty were also sent directly to the gulag, as were Jews from the Anti-Fascist Committee and other organizations. Many thousands of innocents were incarcerated as part of the Leningrad Affair and the Doctor's Plot, while whole ethnic groups were deported to Siberia.
Pasternak later said, "If, in a bad dream, we had seen all of the horrors in store for us after the war, we should have been sorry not to see Stalin go down together with Hitler: an end to the war in favour of our allies, civilized countries with democratic traditions, would have meant a hundred times less suffering for our people than that which Stalin again inflicted on it after his victory."
In October 1946, the married Pasternak met Olga Ivinskaya, a single mother employed by Novy Mir. Deeply moved by her resemblance to his first love Ida Vysotskaya, Pasternak gave Ivinskaya several volumes of his poetry and literary translations. Although Pasternak never left his wife, this initiated an extramarital relationship which would last for the remainder of Pasternak's life. Ivinskaya later recalled:
He phoned almost everyday and, instinctively fearing to meet or talk with him, yet dying of happiness, I would stammer out that I was "busy today." But almost every afternoon, toward the end of working hours, he came in person to the office and often walked with me in person through the streets, boulevards, and squares all the way home to Potapov Street. "Shall I make you a present of this square?" he would ask.
She gave him the phone number of her neighbour Olga Nikolaevna Volkova who resided below. In the evenings, Pasternak would phone and Volkova would signal by banging on the water pipe which connected the apartments.
When they first met, Pasternak was translating the verse of the Hungarian national poet, Sándor Petofi. Pasternak gave his lover a book of Petofi with the inscription, "Petofi served as a code in May and June 1947, and my close translations of his lyrics are an expression, adapted to the requirements of the text, of my feelings and thoughts for you and about you. In memory of it all, B.P., May 13, 1948."
Pasternak later noted on a photograph of himself "Petofi is magnificent with his descriptive lyrics and picture of nature, but you are better still. I worked on him a good deal in 1947 and 1948, when I first came to know you. Thank you for your help. I was translating both of you." Therefore, Ivinskaya would later describe the Petofi translations as, "a first declaration of love."
In 1948, Pasternak advised Ivinskaya to resign her job at Novy Mir, which was becoming extremely difficult due to their relationship. In the aftermath, Pasternak began to instruct her in translating poetry. In time, they began to refer to her apartment on Potapov Street as, "Our Shop."
According to Ivinskaya:
Whenever [Boris Leonidovich] was provided with literal versions of things which echoed his own thoughts or feelings, it made all the difference and he worked feverishly, turning them into masterpieces. I remember his translating Paul Verlaine in a burst of enthusiasm like this – L'Art poétique was after all an expression of his own beliefs about poetry.
In time, Ivinskaya began to tackle more and more translation work, which permitted Pasternak to focus on writing Doctor Zhivago. However, Pasternak closely followed her work and often scribbled suggestions for improvement. He encouraged her not to be too literal in her translations which he felt could confuse the meaning of the text. He advocated observing the work from afar to be able to plumb its true depths. While they were both collaborating on translating Rabindranath Tagore from Bengali into Russian, Pasternak advised Ivinskaya, "1) Bring out the theme of the poem, its subject matter, as clearly as possible; 2) tighten up the fluid, non-European form by rhyming internally, not at the end of the lines; 3) use loose, irregular meters, mostly ternary ones. You may allow yourself to use assonances."
Later, while she was collaborating with him on a translation of Vítezslav Nezval, Pasternak told Ivinskaya:
"Use the literal translation only for the meaning, but do not borrow words as they stand from it: they are absurd and not always comprehensible. Don't translate everything, only what you can manage, and by this means try to make the translation more precise than the original – an absolute necessity in the case of such a confused, slipshod piece of work."
Pasternak's translation of the first part of Faust led him to be attacked in the August 1950 edition of Novy Mir. The critic accused Pasternak of distorting Goethe's concepts and meanings to support "the reactionary theory of 'pure art'", as well as introducing aesthetic and individualist values. In response, Pasternak wrote to the exiled daughter of Marina Tsvetayeva:
"There has been much concern over an article in Novy Mir denouncing my Faust on the grounds that the gods, angels, witches, spirits, the madness of poor Gretchen, and everything 'irrational' has been rendered much too well, while Goethe's 'progressive' ideas (what are they?) have been glossed over. But I have a contract to do the second part as well! I don't know how it will all end. Fortunately, it seems that the article won't have any practical effect."
When Stalin died of a stroke on March 5, 1953, Olga Ivinskaya was imprisoned in the gulag, and Pasternak was in Moscow. Across the nation, there were waves of panic, sadness, confusion. Pasternak wrote, "Men who are not free... always idealize their bondage."
After her release, Pasternak's relationship with Ivinskaya picked up where it had left off. In a 1958 letter to a friend in West Germany, he wrote, "She was put in jail on my account, as the person considered by the secret police to be closest to me, and they hoped that by means of a grueling interrogation and threats they could extract enough evidence from her to put me on trial. I owe my life and the fact that they did not touch me in those years to her heroism and endurance."
Soon after, he confided in her, "For so long we were ruled over by a madman and a murderer, and now by a fool and a pig. The madman had his occasional flights of fancy, he had an intuitive feeling for certain things, despite his wild obscurantism. Now we are ruled over by mediocrities." During this period Pasternak was reading a clandestine copy of George Orwell's Animal Farm in English. He relished the characture of Nikita Khrushchev as the swine dictator Napoleon.
Although it contains passages written in the 1910s and 1920s, Doctor Zhivago was not completed until 1956. Pasternak submitted the novel to Novy Mir, which rejected it for its implicit rejection of socialist realism. The author, like his protagonist Yuri Zhivago, showed more concern for the welfare of individual characters than for the "progress" of society. Soviet censors also regarded some passages as anti-communist, especially the novel's criticisms of Stalinism and references to the gulag.
Soon after, Pasternak and Ivinskaya arranged for Doctor Zhivago to be smuggled abroad by Sir Isaiah Berlin. In 1957, multi-billionaire Italian publisher, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli announced that the novel would be released by his company. Despite repeated demands from visiting Soviet emissaries, Feltrinelli refused to cancel or delay publication. As retaliation, Feltrinelli was expelled in disgrace from the Italian Communist Party.
Helped considerably by Soviet campaign against the novel, Doctor Zhivago became an instant sensation throughout the non-Communist world.
The character of Zhivago's mistress, Lara Antipova, has long been rumored to have been modeled on Ivinskaya. However the elder of Pasternak's sisters stated that on a visit to her in Berlin in the late 1930s, Pasternak told her of the nascent character of Lara, years before he met Ivinskaya in 1946.
The first English translation of Doctor Zhivago was hastily produced by Max Hayward and Manya Harari in order to coincide with overwhelming public demand. It was released in August 1958, and remained the only edition available for more than fifty years.
Between 1958 and 1959, the English language edition spent 26 weeks at the top of The New York Times' bestseller list. Although no Soviet critics had read the banned novel, the Union of Soviet Writers held a trial behind closed doors. Afterwards, they announced that Pasternak had been expelled from the Union. They further signed a petition to the Politburo, demanding that Pasternak be stripped of his Soviet citizenship and exiled to the West. This led to a humorous Russian saying, "I did not read Pasternak, but I condemn him".
Meanwhile, as the novel topped international bestseller lists, the British MI6 and the American CIA commenced an operation to ensure that Doctor Zhivago was correctly submitted to the Nobel Committee. This was done because it was known that a Nobel Prize for Boris Pasternak would seriously harm the international credibility of the Soviet Union. As a result, British and American operatives intercepted and photographed a manuscript of the novel and secretly printed a small number of books in the Russian language. These were submitted to the Nobel Committee's surprised judges just ahead of the deadline. Meanwhile, Pasternak wrote to Renate Schweitzer, that though some believed Pasternak would win but the writer was convinced that he would be passed over in favour of Alberto Moravia. Pasternak wrote that he was racked with torments and anxieties at the thought of failure.
On 23 October 1958, Boris Pasternak was announced as the winner of the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature. The citation credited Pasternak's contribution to Russian lyric poetry and for his role in, "continuing the great Russian epic tradition." On 25 October, Pasternak sent a telegram to the Swedish Academy: "Infinitely grateful, touched, proud, surprised, overwhelmed." That same day, the Literary Institute in Moscow demanded that all its students sign a petition denouncing Pasternak and his novel. They were further ordered to join a "spontaneous" demonstration demanding Pasternak's exile from the Soviet Union. On 26 October, the Literary Gazette ran an article by David Zaslavski entitled, Reactionary Propaganda Uproar over a Literary Weed. Acting on direct orders from the Politburo, the KGB surrounded Pasternak's dacha in Peredelkino. Pasternak was not only threatened with arrest, but the KGB also vowed to send his beloved Olia back to the gulag. It was further hinted that, if Pasternak traveled to Stockholm to collect his Nobel Medal, he would be refused re-entry to the Soviet Union. As a result, Pasternak sent a second telegram to the Nobel Committee: "In view of the meaning given the award by the society in which I live, I must renounce this undeserved distinction which has been conferred on me. Please do not take my voluntary renunciation amiss." The Swedish Academy announced: "This refusal, of course, in no way alters the validity of the award. There remains only for the Academy, however, to announce with regret that the presentation of the Prize cannot take place."
Despite his decision to decline the award, the Soviet Union of Writers continued to denounce Pasternak in the Soviet press. Furthermore, he was threatened at the very least with formal exile to the West. In response, Pasternak wrote directly to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, "Leaving the motherland will equal death for me. I am tied to Russia by birth, by life and work." As a result of this and the intercession of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Pasternak was not expelled from his homeland.
Meanwhile, Bill Mauldin produced a political cartoon lampooning the Soviet State's campaign against Boris Pasternak. Pasternak and another prisoner in the gulag, splitting trees in the snow. In the caption, Pasternak says, "I won the Nobel Prize for literature. What was your crime?" The cartoon won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1959.
Pasternak's post-Zhivago poetry probes the universal questions of love, immortality, and reconciliation with God. Boris Pasternak wrote his last complete book, When the Weather Clears, in 1959.
According to Ivinskaya, Pasternak continued to stick to his daily writing schedule even during the controversy over Doctor Zhivago. He also continued translating the writings of Juliusz Slowacki and Pedro Calderón de la Barca.
In working on Calderón he received help from Nikolai Mikhailovich Liubumov, a shrewd and enlightened person who understood very well that all the mudslinging and commotion over the novel would be forgotten, but that there would always be a Pasternak. I took finished bits of the translation with me to Moscow, read them to Liubimov at Potapov Street, and then went back to Peredelkino, where I would tactfully ask [Boris Leonidovich] to change passages which, in Liubimov's view departed too far from the original. Very soon after the "scandal" was over, [Boris Leonidovich] received a first payment for the work on Calderón.
Ivinskaya further recalls:
He knew that his poetry would remain after the age in which he had lived had gone by, and that, escaping from time's captivity, it would pass into the future – as Pushkin's poetry has into our day. All the same, however, he was anxious that something of his life as a "captive of time" should be recorded for posterity. In his last years he often said to me: "You must go on living. You must give the lie to all the falsehoods which have been woven about me."
During the summer of 1959, Pasternak began writing The Blind Beauty, a stage play about an enslaved artist during the period of serfdom in Russia. However, he fell ill with lung cancer before he could complete it.
Pasternak died of lung cancer in his dacha in Peredelkino on the evening of 30 May 1960. He first summoned his sons, and in their presence said, "Who will suffer most because of my death? Who will suffer most? Only Oliusha will, and I haven't had time to do anything for her. The worst thing is that she will suffer." Pasternak's last words were, "I can't hear very well. And there's a mist in front of my eyes. But it will go away, won't it? Don't forget to open the window tomorrow."
Shortly before his death, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church had given Pasternak the last rites. Later, in the strictest secrecy, an Orthodox funeral liturgy, or Panikhida, was offered in the family's dacha.
Despite only a small notice appearing in the Literary Gazette, handwritten notices carrying the date and time of the funeral were posted throughout the Moscow subway system. As a result, thousands of admirers traveled from Moscow to Pasternak's civil funeral in Peredelkino. According to Jon Stallworthy, "Volunteers carried his open coffin to his burial place and those who were present (including the poet Andrey Voznesensky) recited from memory the banned poem 'Hamlet'."
One of the dissident speakers at the graveside service said, "God marks the path of the elect with thorns, and Pasternak was picked out and marked by God. He believed in eternity and he will belong to it... We excommunicated Tolstoy, we disowned Dostoevsky, and now we disown Pasternak. Everything that brings us glory we try to banish to the West... But we cannot allow this. We love Pasternak and we revere him as a poet... Glory to Pasternak!"
After Pasternak's death, Olga Ivinskaya was arrested for the second time, with her daughter, Irina. Both were accused of being Pasternak's link with Western publishers and of dealing in hard currency for Doctor Zhivago. The KGB quietly released them, Irina after one year, in 1962, and Olga in 1964. By this time, Ivinskaya had served four years of an eight-year sentence, apparently to punish her for her role in Doctor Zhivagos publication. In 1978, her memoirs, were smuggled abroad and published in Paris, France. An English translation by Max Hayward was published the same year under the title A Captive of Time: My Years with Pasternak.
Ivinskaya was rehabilitated only in 1988. All of Pasternak's letters to her and other manuscripts and documents had been seized by the KGB during her last arrest. She spent several years in litigation trying to regain them. However, those were blocked by Pasternak's daughter-in-law, Natalya. The Russian Supreme Court ultimately ruled against her, stating that, "there was no proof of ownership," and that the, "papers should remain in the state archive". She died of cancer on September 8, 1995. A reporter on NTV compared Ivinskaya's role to that of other famous muses for Russian poets: "As Pushkin would not be complete without Anna Kern, and Yesenin would be nothing without Isadora, so Pasternak would not be Pasternak without Olga Ivinskaya, who was his inspiration for Doctor Zhivago."
Meanwhile, Boris Pasternak continued to be pilloried by the Soviet State until Mikhail Gorbachev proclaimed Perestroika during the 1980s.
In 1988, after decades of circulating in Samizdat, Doctor Zhivago was serialized in the literary journal Novy Mir.
In December, 1989, Yevgeny Borisovich Pasternak was permitted to travel to Stockholm in order to collect his father's Nobel Medal. At the ceremony, acclaimed cellist and Soviet dissident Mstislav Rostropovich performed a Bach serenade in honor of his deceased countryman.
In 2007, The Times at last revealed that the involvement of British and American intelligence officers in ensuring Pasternak's Nobel victory. When Yevgeny Borisovich Pasternak was questioned about this, however, he responded that his father was completely unaware of the actions of Western intelligence services. Yevgeny further declared that the Nobel Prize caused his father nothing but severe grief and harassment at the hands of the Soviet State.
The Pasternak family papers are stored at the Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University. They contain correspondence, drafts of Doctor Zhivago and other writings, photographs, and other material, of Boris Pasternak and other family members.
A minor planet 3508 Pasternak, discovered by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina in 1980 is named after him.
Russian-American singer and songwriter Regina Spektor recites a verse from "Black Spring", a 1912 poem by Pasternak in her song "Apres Moi" from her album Begin to Hope.
In October 2010, Random House released Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation of Doctor Zhivago.
The first screen adaptation of Doctor Zhivago, adapted by Robert Bolt and directed by David Lean, appeared in 1965. The film, which toured in the roadshow tradition, starred Omar Sharif, Geraldine Chaplin, and Julie Christie. Concentrating on the love triangle aspects of the novel, the film became a worldwide blockbuster, but was unavailable in Russia until Perestroika.
In 2002, the novel was adapted as a television miniseries. Directed by Giacomo Campiotti, the serial starred Hans Matheson, Alexandra Maria Lara, Keira Knightley, and Sam Neill.
The Russian TV version of 2006, directed by Alexander Proshkin and starring Oleg Menshikov as Zhivago, is considered more faithful to Pasternak's novel than David Lean's 1965 film.
Boris Pasternak's Works:
In The Interlude: Poems 1945-1960 (1962)
My Sister, Life (1922)
On Early Trains (1944)
Over the Barriers (1916)
Selected Poems (1946)
Themes and Variations (1917)
Twin in the Clouds (1914)
When the Weather Clears (1959)
Books of Prose
Collected Works (1945)
Doctor Zhivago (1957)
Essay in Autobiography (1956)
Goethe's Faust (1952)
Safe Conduct (1931)
Second Birth (1932)
Selected Writings (1949)
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- ‘February. Take ink and weep,’
- ‘Like a brazier’s bronze cinders,’
- ‘My sister – Life’s overflowing today’
- A Dream
- A Sultrier Dawn
- A tall, strapping shot, you, considerate...
- A Walts With a Tear in It
- About These Poems
- After the Interval
- After The Storm
- Autumn Frost
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The sun is hotter than the top ledge in a steam bath;
The ravine, crazed, is rampaging below.
Spring -- that corn-fed, husky milkmaid --
Is busy at her chores with never a letup.
The snow is wasting (pernicious anemia --
See those branching veinlets of impotent blue?)
Yet in the cowbarn life is burbling, steaming,
And the tines of pitchforks simply glow with health.