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Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Doctor Zhivago (1957)

by Boris Pasternak

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,92490522 (3.9)1 / 487
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Thought the movie was a snore, but since many LThing members seem to like it, I'll take another look, time permitting.

As to the novel, need to mull it over a bit longer, though glad I read it.

Initial reactions:

*vivid historical re-creation of the impact of the Bolshevik revolution from the perspective of the educated upper middle and upper classes who were understandably biased. I first became aware of the novel in middle school via a book report by a young lady highly sympathetic at the time to the John Birch Society ideologies; this was at the time of the first translation into English. Pasternak's take is more nuanced, but he's clearly not in Putin's corner.

* Some interesting sections on the act of literary creation. The use of description and metaphor is possibly richer and more suggestive than some of the straightforward "philosophy" sections.

*The love life of the doctor is expressed operatically rather than novelistically. Interesting that the first translation was into Italian by an Italian publisher in a country mad for opera.

*With regard to the cultural commentary interludes, they are very earnest. The ruminations on philosophy, religion, politics, and the role of women lack the humor and exuberance of Dostoyevsky, much less Oscar Wilde.

Caution: I don't read Russian. Comments based on the PV translation. ( )
  featherbear | May 11, 2015 |
This famous novel of the Russian revolution and Civil War became a cause celebre when its publication was cancelled by Soviet authorities and Pasternak had the manuscript smuggled out of the country for publication. Doctor Zhivago was cited by the Swedish Academy when it awarded Pasternak the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 (an award that Pasternak refused, under pressure from the Soviet government). ( )
This review has been flagged by multiple users as abuse of the terms of service and is no longer displayed (show).
  Tutter | Feb 28, 2015 |
a funny thing happened on the way to reading this book - i remembered pasternak's niece had written a review of the new translation by pevear and volokhonsky, so i looked it up (linked below). i didn't read the whole thing until after i finished the novel, but i read enough to know she is not a fan. which was a total bummer. i have come to love the work P&V do translating the russian classics. but i am at a huge disadvantage because i don't speak russian, all i know is that when i have read their translations, i have come away feeling as though the integrity of the original has been maintained and that the voices of the authors come through.

well, it turns out i own two copies of doctor zhivago, this hardcover translation by P&V, along with an e-pub edition of the max hayward and manya harari edition ann pasternak slater notes and compares in her review. so i decided to read from each book. guess what? pevear and volokhonsky totally won!


"In those first day, people like the soldier Pamphil Palykh, who, without any agitation, had a fierce, brutal hatred of the intelligentsia, the gentry, and the officers, seemed a rare find to the rapturous left-wing intelligentsia and were greatly valued."

"In those early days, men like Pamphil Palykh, who needed encouragement to hate intellectuals, officer and gentry with a savage haters, were regarded by enthusiastic left-wing intellectuals as a rare find and greatly valued."

pasternak slater complains, in her review, that much of her uncle's force was lost in the P&V translation -- but i did not feel this to be the case at all. as i was reading, i felt the strength of the work, its urgency. at times, it was almost too chaotic but that must be purposeful and a representation of what it was like for people living through this time in history. so i now feel that pasternak slater is just too close to the work to have an unbiased opinion.

so now that my translation ramble is out of the way... what did i think of the novel?

i feel like i just read the lovechild of tolstoy and dostoevsky. pasternak has moments of beautiful prose and observations (like tolstoy), and then these more frantic, chaotic turns (like dostoevsky). but i found myself wondering about (sometimes distracted by) the political nature of the novel, and whether pasternak intended it to serve a higher purpose? yet, in reading the introduction to the P&V translation (written by richard peaver), it is noted ... he was the first to oppose the Soviet regime and its ideology so openly and so effectively. And yet Pasternak was not at all a political man; the public realm and the conflict of ideologies did not interest him." pevear does go on to say that the book speaks in the name of something else altogether, but that 'something else' was a subject of confusion for readers and critics when the book was first released in the west.

overall i feel this is a pretty important book in the literary canon. but now that i have finally read it, i wonder how many people have come to it expecting a great love story (thanks to julie christie/omar sharif) and then wondered 'what the heck?' i guess there's love in it? maybe more like crazy passions? or 'if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with'. but zhivago is not a romantic hero to be held up as the epitome of a leading man. he's a greatly flawed dude when it comes to the ladies. or being a parent.

i had some issues with the coincidences that kept cropping up. i mean -- russia is, you know, a damn huge place. each time character's would unexpectedly cross paths with one another, i did have to roll my eyes a little bit. in the introduction, pevear includes an excerpt from a letter pasternak wrote to a teacher in england: "The frequent coincidences in the plot are (in this case) not the secret, trick expedients of the novelist. They are the traits to characterize that somewhat willful, free, fanciful flow of reality." that didn't make me feel better. it was totally a trick, borichka! heh.

i never know how to review classic works. so i am sorry this is not very coherent and kind of rambly. but these are the strange thoughts i had while reading the book. (it should also be noted that i read this in january, in toronto, during an extreme cold alert, while dealing with pneumonia and crazy fevers. which, you know, makes totaly sense and, i think, added to my reading experience. it was like i was right there suffering the typhus on the taiga. vashe zdorovie!

/feverish rambling

guardian review: boris pasternak's niece, a literary scholar and translator, reviewed the newest translation by P&V, for the guardian. she (ann pasternak slater) was not so amused.: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/nov/06/doctor-zhivago-boris-pasternak-tran... ( )
  Booktrovert | Jan 9, 2015 |
I was very impressed with this new translation of one of my old favorites. I've read this book so many times since 1966, but this translation makes the book pares the romance from the real, making the book as if it is about everyman:

  conniekronlokken | Jan 6, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (80 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Pasternak, Borisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guerney, Bernard GuilbertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harari, ManyaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hayward, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Konkka, JuhaniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pevear, RichardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scheepmaker, NicoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Volokhonsky, LarissaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On they went, singing "Rest Eternal," and whenever they stopped, their feet, the horses, and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.
The fear known as spymania had reduced all speech to a single formal, predictable patter. The display of good intentions in discourse was not conductive to conversation.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679774386, Paperback)

n celebration of the 40th anniversary of its original publication, here is the only paperback edition now available of the classic story of the life and loves of a poet/physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:44 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Yuri Zhivago, doctor and poet, lives and loves during the first three decades of 20th-century Russia.

» see all 16 descriptions

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