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Boris Pasternak: Family Correspondence, 1921-1960 (Hoover Inst Press Publication)by Boris Leonidovich Pasternak
Synopses & Reviews
Best known in the West for his epic novel Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak is most celebrated in Russia as a poet—perhaps the most influential Russian poet of the twentieth century. But this is only one of the many little-known facts of Pasternak’s life that come to light in this extensive selection of his correspondence with his family from 1921 to 1960.
Pasternak was born into a prominent Jewish family in Moscow, where his father, Leonid, was a professor at the Moscow School of Painting and his mother, Rosalia, was an acclaimed concert pianist. The highly cultural environment of his parents’ home was open to such guests as Rachmaninov, Rilke, and Tolstoy; even after their voluntary exile, his family were to play a crucial role in Pasternak’s life and work. In the early 1920s he wrote largely autobiographical poetry and novellas, but from the mid-1920s on he moved away from personal themes to focus on the meaning of the revolution. In the 1930s and 1940s, Pasternak’s works fell out of favor with the authorities and were not printed; he was obliged to earn a living from translations. Despite the appalling difficulties in communication, his ongoing dialogue with his family became ever more important during the last twenty-five years of his life.
World War II and Stalin’s wave of mass persecutions after the war led to many interruptions and prolonged suspensions of the family’s correspondence. When Doctor Zhivago brought him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958, Pasternak was forced to decline the honor because of official pressure in his home country: the novel was banned in the Soviet Union, and Pasternak was expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers. An authentic and penetrating account of Russian life in the turbulent era of revolutions and wars, the story of Yuri Zhivago and his great love, Lara, was partly modeled on Pasternak and his companion, Olga Ivinskaya.
At times equalling the drama and intensity of his fictional work, these letters, along with more than fifty illustrations and photos, offer unprecedented insights into the life and work of one of Russia’s literary giants.
Book News Annotation:
Russian poet and novelist Boris Pasternak was best known in the West for his tragic novel on Soviet Russia, Doctor Zhivago, for which he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958. This work collects 40 years of correspondence between Boris and other members of his celebrated family of intellectuals, artists, and musicians, who left Russia shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution. The letters stand on a par with Pasternak's poetry in their intellectual intensity, candor, and stylistic play. They give insight on the political storm in Soviet Russia that surrounded Pasternak's Nobel Prize, and demonstrate his family's crucial role in both his life and his creative work. The book contains about 50 b&w historical photos, many family photos, and some color prints of art portraits by Boris Pasternak's father. Genealogical charts are also included. The book is based on an abridged German-language version, published by S. Fischer Verlag in 2000, of the 1998 collection published in the series Stanford Slavic Studies. The translator and author of the introduction is Nicholas Pasternak Slater, the son of Boris Pasternak's sister Lydia, to whom many of the letters in this collection were addressed. Editor Maya Slater is a senior research fellow of Queen Mary College, University of London. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This selection of Boris Pasternak’s correspondence with his parents and sisters from 1921 to 1960 sheds new and revealing light on the great writer’s life and work. His letters are accomplished literary works in their own right, on a par with his poetry in their intensity, frankness, and dazzling stylistic play. In addition, they offer a rare glimpse into his innermost self, significantly complementing the insights obtained from his work. Those glimpses are especially poignant in that after 1923 Pasternak was never to see his parents again.
The collection reflects the events of Pasternak’s life during forty turbulent years. His father was a distinguished painter and his mother, a concert pianist; his admiration for them colors the entire correspondence. But other topics also find a place: descriptions of his life under the harsh Soviet regime, reflections on his work, on his meetings with famous contemporaries, and on current events, including arrests and executions. In particular, the dramatic happenings of 1956–1960—the publication of Doctor Zhivago, being awarded the Nobel Prize, and the international political storm that followed—weighed heavily on Pasternak and his family. As an evocation of his times, his letters are as powerful as his literary works, with their intimate biographical detail, emotional honesty and—despite the tightening censorship—the openness and candor of their revelations.
This selection of Boris Pasternak's correspondence with his parents and sisters from 1921 to 1960—including more than illustrations and photos—is an authoritative, indispensable introduction and guide to the great writer's life and work. His letters are accomplished literary works in their own right, on a par with his poetry in their intensity, frankness, and dazzling stylistic play. In addition, they offer a rare glimpse into his innermost self, significantly complementing the insights gained from his work. They are especially poignant in that after 1923 Pasternak was never to see his parents again.
About the Author
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, Russian poet and writer, was the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958. Born in Moscow, Pasternak is best known in the West for his monumental tragic novel on Soviet Russia, Doctor Zhivago. It is as a poet, however, that he is most celebrated in Russia. He fell out of favor with the Soviet authorities in the 1930s but somehow was spared arrest and imprisonment. He died on May 31, 1960.
Nicolas Pasternak Slater is the son of Boris Pasternak’s sister Lydia, to whom many of the letters in this collection are addressed. He has divided much of his life between working as a medical specialist in hematology and as a translator, publishing both scientific and literary translations, including Boris Pasternak’s autobiographical essay People and Propositions.
Maya Slater, wife of Boris Pasternak’s nephew Nicolas Pasternak Slater, is a widely published writer and a senior research fellow of Queen Mary College, University of London.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Lazar Fleishman
Introduction by Nicolas Pasternak Slater
Note on Translation and Editorial Matters
Chapter One 1921-1925
Chapter Two 1926
Chapter Three 1926-1927
Chapter Four 1927-1928
Chapter Five 1928-1929
Chapter Six 1930
Chapter Seven 1931-1932
Chapter Eight 1932
Chapter Nine 1933-1935
Chapter Ten 1935-1936
Chapter Eleven 1936-1939
Chapter Twelve 1939-1941
Chapter Thirteen 1941-1948
Chapter Fourteen 1956-1958
Chapter Fifteen 1958-1960
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