I was hard-pressed with family, plus behind in getting out interviews,(so they are slow coming in), and also hard-pressed to find a book to review whose author is not A) a former guest B) a future guest or C) the Hound or past/present Fox.
However, I ran across the review of a new book that makes everything a bit clearer to me about one particular author: Boris Pasternak.
In the late 60s I started reading a lot of Russian literature because I watched the serialized Russian “War and Peace”. I was as curious as all get-out. I read a great deal of Tolstoy and moved on to others. (FYI: Anna Karenina is a literal throw-away. Tolstoy kept throwing the pages out and his daughter kept retrieving them to send to a magazine editor simply to get the money. She’d push, he’d write and throw them out. It was a vicious cycle and it shows. I never read through it. It is a dirty shame that if a library has any Tolstoy on their shelves, it is that rag.)
I admit that could not deal with Dostoyevsky, as every character seemed to me at the time to be way too crazy.
Anyway, out of sheer curiosity I read Dr. Zhivago. I had not seen the movie and I was intent to see the story play out. I became completely smitten with the poetry of Dr. Zhivago, but I did not understand why anyone thought of the book as a love story.
When I saw the movie many years later, I was not happy. The only character that they happened to ‘get right’ was Viktor Kormarovsky, who was portrayed incredibly by Rod Steiger. Otherwise, they changed characters, made them shallow and tried to play it all up as a ‘love story’.
It isn’t. If you have never read the book, Dr. Z was very fond of and had great feelings for his wife and he had great ties and affection for her family, which became his. However, after all was over:
He never tried to get to his wife and children.
He never tried to find Lara.
He ‘took up’ with another young woman and had a family with her.
So not a true ‘love story’.
I read other works of Pasternak’s. I truly loved more of his poetry. What is amazing is that he wrote Dr. Zhivago’s poetry AS Dr. Zhivago, in another voice, in Dr. Zhivago’s voice, unlike his own.
I always meant to buy a good translation of his poetry to have for myself, but I have not.
I have not revisited any of Pasternak’s works in a number of decades, but I just found that his niece published a books two years ago that explains a great deal.
Apparently, Boris himself had a ‘love’ not unlike Lara. Their relationship was a scandal to the family, but they had other problems to consider, such as his anti-Soviet writings, which made the authorities very nervous. His mistress was twice sent to Siberian prison camps because she would not betray Boris and would not answer questions about his writings, of which apparently, she has a great deal of influence, considering herself as his “muse”. When she was released, she expected that her loyalty and devotion would be repaid by his leaving his wife for her and that her devotion would be reciprocated, but it was not, (despite the fact that Pasternak had been married and divorced multiple times previously).
He was an even weaker man than he wrote Zhivago to be. His claim to fame seems to be more that he created an international shake-up and made the Soviets upset during The Cold War than anything else.
That really isn’t enough, is it?
Perhaps there is more of Pasternak in Zhivago than I assumed, more of him in the poetry. I cannot say that I admire the man, but I can still enjoy the poetry, whether or not it is more of the translator’s work than his.
(At this point, I started to go into thoughts on translations, but I will save all that came to mind for another day, probably for our next ‘Free Week’ in two weeks).
Do you like the Dr. Zhivago movie?
Have you read the book?
Does a writer’s personal life affect your disposition towards his/her writing?