Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich

Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich

▪ Russian author
born Feb. 10 [Jan. 29, Old Style], 1890, Moscow, Russia
died May 30, 1960, Peredelkino, near Moscow
 Russian poet whose novel Doctor Zhivago helped win him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 but aroused so much opposition in the Soviet Union that he declined the honour. An epic of wandering, spiritual isolation, and love amid the harshness of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, the novel became an international best-seller but circulated only in secrecy and translation in his own land.

      Pasternak grew up in a cultured Jewish household. His father, Leonid, was an art professor and a portraitist of novelist Leo Tolstoy, poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and composer Sergey Rachmaninoff, all frequent guests at his home, and of Lenin. His mother was the pianist Rosa Kaufman.

      Young Pasternak himself planned a musical career, though he was a precocious poet. He studied musical theory and composition for six years, then abruptly switched to philosophy courses at Moscow University and the University of Marburg (Germany). Physically disqualified for military service, he worked in a chemical factory in the Urals during World War I. After the Revolution he worked in the library of the Soviet commissariat of education.

      His first volume of poetry was published in 1913. In 1917 he brought out a striking second volume, Poverkh baryerov (“Over the Barriers”), and with the publication of Sestra moya zhizn (1922; “My Sister Life”) he was recognized as a major new lyrical voice. His poems of that period reflected Symbolist influences. Though avant-garde and esoteric by Russian standards, they were successful. From 1933 to 1943, however, the gap between his work and the official modes (such as Socialist Realism) was too wide to permit him to publish, and he feared for his safety during the purges of the late 1930s. One theory is that Stalin spared him because Pasternak had translated poets of Stalin's native Georgia. His translations, which were his main livelihood, included renderings of William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, English Romantic poets, Paul Verlaine, and Rainer Maria Rilke.

      Although Pasternak hoped for the best when he submitted Doctor Zhivago to a leading Moscow monthly in 1956, it was rejected with the accusation that “it represented in a libelous manner the October Revolution, the people who made it, and social construction in the Soviet Union.” The book reached the West in 1957 through an Italian publishing house that had bought rights to it from Pasternak and refused to return it “for revisions.” By 1958, the year of its English edition, the book had been translated into 18 languages.

      In the Soviet Union, the Nobel Prize brought a campaign of abuse. Pasternak was ejected from the Union of Soviet Writers (Writers' Union of the U.S.S.R.) and thus deprived of his livelihood. Public meetings called for his deportation; he wrote Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, “Leaving the motherland will equal death for me.” Suffering from cancer and heart trouble, he spent his last years in his home at Peredelkino.

      Pasternak's works in English translation include short stories, the autobiographical Okhrannaya gramota (1931; Safe Conduct), and the full range of his poetic output, which ended on a note of gravity and quiet inwardness.

      In 1987 the Union of Soviet Writers posthumously reinstated Pasternak, a move that gave his works a legitimacy they had lacked in the Soviet Union since his expulsion from the writers' union in 1958 and that finally made possible the publication of Doctor Zhivago in the Soviet Union. In addition to effecting Pasternak's rehabilitation, the review commission, headed by poet Andrey Voznesensky, recommended that Pasternak's home in Peredelkino be made a museum.

Additional Reading
Works of mainly biographical interest include Olga Ivinskaya, A Captive of Time (1978; originally published in Russian, 1978); Guy de Mallac, Boris Pasternak: His Life and Work (1981); Ronald Hingley, Pasternak (1983); Christopher Barnes, Boris Pasternak: A Literary Biography (1989– ); and Lazar Fleishman, Boris Pasternak: The Poet and His Politics (1990). Criticism is represented by Olga R. Hughes, The Poetic World of Boris Pasternak (1974); Henry Gifford, Pasternak: A Critical Study (1977); and Victor Erlich (ed.), Pasternak: A Collection of Critical Essays (1978). Munir Sendich, Boris Pasternak: A Reference Guide (1994), an annotated bibliography of works by and about Pasternak, 1913–90, includes an essay on the critical reception Pasternak's writings received.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • PASTERNAK, BORIS LEONIDOVICH — (1890–1960), Soviet Russian poet and novelist. A son of the painter leonid pasternak , the younger Pasternak ultimately became one of the very few Soviet writers whose work is essentially Christian in spirit. Born and educated in Moscow, he also… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Pasternak,Boris Leonidovich — Pas·ter·nak (păsʹtər năk , pə styĭr näkʹ), Boris Leonidovich. 1890 1960. Russian writer whose Doctor Zhivago (1957), a novel of disillusionment with the Russian Revolution, was banned by Soviet authorities. He was forced to refuse the 1958 Nobel… …   Universalium

  • Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich — (1890–1960)    Soviet poet and novelist and Nobel laureate, 1958. Pasternak was the son of the painter Leonid Pasternak and the pianist Rosa Kaufmann. He grew up in Moscow, where his father was a well known portraitist and a close friend of… …   Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament

  • Pasternak, Boris (Leonidovich) — born Feb. 10, 1890, Moscow, Russia died May 30, 1960, Peredelkino, near Moscow Russian poet and prose writer. He studied music and philosophy and after the Russian Revolution of 1917 worked in the library of the Soviet commissariat of education.… …   Universalium

  • Pasternak, Borís (Leonídovich) — (10 feb. 1890, Moscú, Rusia–30 may. 1960, Perediélkino, cerca de Moscú). Poeta y prosista ruso. Estudió música y filosofía. Después de la Revolución rusa de 1917, trabajó en la biblioteca del comisariado soviético de educación. Su poesía temprana …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Boris Leonidovich Pasternak — Boris Leonidowitsch Pasternak Boris Leonidowitsch Pasternak (russisch Борис Леонидович Пастернак, wiss. Transliteration Boris Leonidovič Pasternak; * 29. Januarjul./ 10. Februar 1890greg. in …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Boris Leonidovich Pasternak — Boris Pasternak Pour les articles homonymes, voir Pasternak. Boris Pasternak Activité(s) Poète, romancier …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Boris Leonidovich Pasternak — noun Russian writer whose best known novel was banned by Soviet authorities but translated and published abroad (1890 1960) • Syn: ↑Pasternak, ↑Boris Pasternak • Instance Hypernyms: ↑writer, ↑author …   Useful english dictionary

  • Boris Leonidovich Pasternak — n. (1890 1960) Russian writer and translator who is famous for his novel Doctor Zhivago (1957) that was banned by the Soviet authorities but was translated and published in other countries (he was compelled to refuse the 1958 Nobel Prize for… …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Boris Pasternak — Infobox Writer name = Boris Pasternak awards = awd|Nobel Prize in Literature|1958 imagesize = 150px birthdate = OldStyleDate|February 10|1890|January 29 birthplace = Moscow, Russian Empire deathdate = death date and age|1960|5|30|1890|2|10… …   Wikipedia

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