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8 February 1990
Boris PasternakThe Tragic Years 1930-1960 
by Evgeny Pasternak.
Collins Harvill, 278 pp., £15, January 1990, 0 00 272045 0
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Boris​ Pasternak 
by Peter Levi.
Hutchinson, 310 pp., £17.95, January 1990, 0 09 173886 5
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Boris PasternakA Literary Biography. Vol.I: 1890-1928 
by Christopher Barnes.
Cambridge, 507 pp., £35, November 1989, 0 521 25957 6
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Poems 1955-1959 and An Essay in Autobiography 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Michael Harari and Manya Harari.
Collins Harvill, 212 pp., £6.95, January 1990, 9780002710657
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The Year 1905 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Chappell.
Spenser, £4.95, April 1989, 0 9513843 0 9
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... A not unmalicious fellow poet once said of Pasternak that he resembled a horse: ‘the same big awkward profile and large eyes that seem to look intently without seeing anything’. The horse-faced parsnip – Pasternak means parsnip in Russian. This ...
24 May 1990
Against the Grain: An Autobiography 
by Boris​ Yeltsin, translated by Michael Glenny.
Cape, 215 pp., £12.95, March 1990, 0 224 02749 2
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... interview with a disillusioned veteran of the Indian Communist Party. This old comrade had been invited to Moscow by Khrushchev, and wanted a chance to express his misgivings about the treatment of BorisPasternak. During a Bolshoi performance in which Khrushchev was showing no interest, he seized his moment. In vain. No, said the burly peasant, I want to hear no more about this author. We shall not ...
4 November 1982
The Correspondence of Boris Pasternak​ and Olga Friedenberg 1910-1954 
edited by Elliott Mossman, translated by Elliott Mossman and Margaret Wettlin.
Secker, 365 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 436 28855 9
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... and Pushkin was a forerunner of this latterday renaissance of cosmopolitanism, however inevitably he is also Russia’s great national poet. Even while the state xenophobia of Stalin was setting in, Pasternak made most of his living by translations of European poetry, from Shakespeare to Goethe and Petöfi. And it is an insight into relations within such a family that comes to us from this correspondence ...

The Writer and the Valet

Frances Stonor Saunders: Pasternak​ and the Valet

24 September 2014
... when he first read Dr Zhivago. It was the evening of Saturday, 18 August 1956, and he had just made the short journey back to Moscow from the village of Peredelkino, where he had spent the day with BorisPasternak. Pasternak’s dacha was part of a complex set up on Stalin’s orders in 1934 to reward the Soviet Union’s most prominent writers. One of them, Korney Chukovsky, described the scheme as ...

Charmed Life

John Bayley

15 September 1983
The Russian Revolutionary Novel: Turgenev to Pasternak 
by Richard Freeborn.
Cambridge, 256 pp., £27.50, January 1983, 0 521 24442 0
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Boris PasternakHis Life and Art 
by Guy de Mallac.
Souvenir, 450 pp., £14.95, February 1983, 0 285 62558 6
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PasternakA Biography 
by Ronald Hingley.
Weidenfeld, 294 pp., £12.95, August 1983, 9780297782070
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Selected Poems 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France.
Allen Lane, 160 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 7139 1497 1
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Poets of Modern Russia 
by Peter France.
Cambridge, 240 pp., £20, February 1983, 0 521 23490 5
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Russian Literature since the Revolution 
by Edward Brown.
Harvard, 413 pp., £20, December 1982, 0 674 78203 8
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... which continues after his death. This occurs in a very obvious sense in relation to an artist like D.H. Lawrence, but in a much more subtle and peculiar sense it is true of a great poet-artist like Pasternak. The tradition in English is different: the greatness in poetry of a Yeats or an Eliot, however complex a matter, does not depend directly on their ‘views’, or upon their self-appointed role in ...

Yoked together

Frank Kermode

22 September 1994
History: The Home Movie 
by Craig Raine.
Penguin, 335 pp., £9.99, September 1994, 0 14 024240 6
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... the wall, a secret policeman, a pencil on a desk. He begins with a scene in a Black Sea dacha, date 1905, where the Pasternaks, children of the painter Leonid and his Jewish wife Rosa, are at play. Boris makes his first appearance. The 1905 Revolution is in progress offstage. The painter’s palette is compared to a latrine, turds of fresh pigment fresh from their bolsters, and the painter himself ...

Poetry Inc.

Christopher Reid

18 September 1986
A Ringing Glass: The Life of Rainer Maria Rilke 
by Donald Prater.
Oxford, 472 pp., £25, March 1986, 9780198157557
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Letters: Summer 1926 
by Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetayeva and Rainer Maria Rilke, edited by Yevgeny Pasternak and Yelena Pasternak.
Cape, 251 pp., £15, May 1986, 0 224 02376 4
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... visiting him in his Swiss sanctuary became too much to contemplate and defensive tactics were called for. Clearly, for Tsvetayeva, Rilke was not simply the greatest living poet, as he was for Pasternak, but he was ‘poetry incarnate’, too, and for this reason alone it is probably fortunate that they never met in the flesh. Letters, sent over long distances and, in the case of those between Rilke ...


Craig Raine: In Moscow

22 March 1990
... Monday 29 January. Things have changed. We are at the Russian Embassy to see Andrei Nekrasov’s execrable biopic about Pasternak. A huge video projector squats while Sergei Shilov, the Ambassador’s personal assistant, presents my wife with 12 red roses, garni, and says a few words of introduction. He will not presume, he ...
24 January 1991
... The small dacha in Peredelkino outside Moscow where BorisPasternak lived for several years and where in 1960 he died is now a museum. It was there that the Writer’s Union representative took us – a group of jet-lagged American journal editors – on the first ...

Before They Met

Michael Wood: Dr Zhivago

17 February 2011
Doctor Zhivago 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.
Harvill, 513 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 1 84655 379 0
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... the future of England’. Actually it’s difficult to think of David Lean placing rainbows anywhere much, and more significantly, the mood of the rainbow, if not the actual image, is fully there in BorisPasternak’s novel, as Russian as you can get. It is true that Lean hangs his rainbow across the waters of a rather predictable Soviet dam, while the novel’s rosy view starts in Moscow. Two ...

Getting back

Adrian Poole

1 July 1982
A crowd is not company 
by Robert Kee.
Cape, 240 pp., £7.50, May 1982, 9780224020039
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by Clive Sinclair.
Allison and Busby, 109 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 85031 454 2
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New Writing and Writers 19 
John Calder, 262 pp., £6.95, April 1982, 0 7145 3811 6Show More
Zhenia’s Childhood 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Alec Brown.
Allison and Busby, 115 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 0 85031 466 6
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... elegiac story is translated from the Dutch into an English version that reads with remarkable fluency and elegance: the translator, Adrienne Dixon, deserves credit. Whether the translator of the four Pasternak stories published for the first time in English as Zhenia’s Childhood deserves credit or not is very difficult for the Russianless reader to decide. For a start he is strangely unnamed, but I ...


Alan Brien: Finding Lenin

7 August 1986
... that even this could be fudged in some standard works. Robert Payne is an acknowledged expert on Russian affairs, author of Dostoyevsky: A Human Portrait, The Image of Chekhov, The Three Worlds of BorisPasternak. The Life and Death of Lenin (1964) runs to 672 pages. I returned to it to check the death toll in the Soviet famine of 1921, a catastrophe far worse than even the worst starvation in ...

Like a Thunderbolt

Sheila Fitzpatrick: Solzhenitsyn’s Mission

11 September 2008
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 
by Liudmila Saraskina.
Molodaia gvardiia, 935 pp., €30, April 2008, 978 5 235 03102 9
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... idea that a Nobel Prize was the way to get his message out to the world – and he had also noticed that sensational confrontations were needed to keep the attention of the Western press. After BorisPasternak was offered but forced to refuse the Nobel Prize in 1958, Solzhenitsyn became, on his own account, obsessed with it: All the more vividly did I see it, all the more eagerly did I brood on ...

Cultivating Their Dachas

Sheila Fitzpatrick: ‘Zhivago’s Children’

10 September 2009
Zhivago’s Children: The Last Russian Intelligentsia 
by Vladislav Zubok.
Harvard, 453 pp., £25.95, May 2009, 978 0 674 03344 3
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... Zubok’s coinage, is something of a misnomer for a group of optimistic reform-minded socialists who were proud of their country and considered themselves children of the Revolution. Neither Pasternak nor Zhivago was a socialist, an optimist or a Soviet patriot. What they shared with Zubok’s group was a devotion to high culture and consciousness of descent from the Russian intelligentsia of the ...

Chemical Soup

James Meek: Embalming Lenin’s body

18 March 1999
Lenin's Embalmers 
by Ilya Zbarsky and Samuel Hutchinson.
Harvill, 215 pp., £12.99, October 1998, 1 86046 515 3
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... of rational thought and inquiry – something Lenin and most of the early Bolsheviks never thought to do. Ilya Zbarsky’s poignant, laconic memoir is partly an account of how his opportunist father Boris came to head the laboratory responsible for keeping Lenin’s body in perfect condition. It is also an account of the fate of Soviet science under Stalin and his successors. The stories run in ...

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