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On the horse Parsnip

John Bayley, 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 is very endearing. What other great poet has the bigness and animal closeness of the equine, and words that plod like hooves with such delicate precision through twigs and grasses? The girls chanting the ‘candle’ poem at his funeral must also have longed to have given him a lump of sugar? One of the best little scenes in Dr Zhivago is the doctor riding home through the Urals forest, with his slow beast undulating under him, and ‘dry volleys of sound bursting from the horse’s guts ...

Thousands of Cans and Cartons

Christopher Hitchens, 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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... to Moscow by Khrushchev, and wanted a chance to express his misgivings about the treatment of Boris Pasternak. 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 be publishing him. Had it occurred to the party of ...

Pasternak and the Russians

John Bayley, 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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... 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 of Pasternak with ...

The Writer and the Valet

Frances Stonor Saunders, 25 September 2014

... the short journey back to Moscow from the village of Peredelkino, where he had spent the day with Boris Pasternak. 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 ‘entrapping ...

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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... 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 society. Their legend is personal, not ...

Diary

Craig Raine: In Moscow, 22 March 1990

... 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 says, to speak of the work of ...

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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... 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 wipes his hands on a newspaper, thus carelessly disposing ...

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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... 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 and ...

Where little Fyodor played

Stephen Greenblatt, 24 January 1991

... The small dacha in Peredelkino outside Moscow where Boris Pasternak 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 afternoon of our recent visit. The books and the furniture and the grand piano and the drawings by his father Leonid, all of which had been carted off after Pasternak’s death, when the dacha was unceremoniously assigned to another writer, have been brought back, and the poet who had been expelled by the Writer’s Union in the wake of the publication of Doctor Zhivago, is now given culture’s highest tribute – museumification ...

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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... much, and more significantly, the mood of the rainbow, if not the actual image, is fully there in Boris Pasternak’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 veterans of the Second World War look out on an urban ...

Diary

Alan Brien: Finding Lenin, 7 August 1986

... affairs, author of Dostoyevsky: A Human Portrait, The Image of Chekhov, The Three Worlds of Boris Pasternak. 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 Africa today. Payne writes: ‘No accurate figures were ...

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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Bedbugs 
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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... 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 understand that this is an error and that his name ...

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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... that sensational confrontations were needed to keep the attention of the Western press. After Boris Pasternak 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 it, demand it from the future! I had to have that ...

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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... 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 19th century. In the novel, Dr Zhivago is emblematic ...

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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... 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 parallel. What comes across strongly in the book, written with ...

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