Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Pasternak was a leading Russian poet, a particularly gifted translator, and a writer of prose, most notably the novel Doctor Zhivago, for which he was offered the Nobel Prize in 1958. His highly cultured talent managed to find both expression and influence despite severe adversity in the Soviet literary climate.
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was born on February 10, 1890, in Moscow, the first child of Leonid Osipovich Pasternak, an artist renowned for his portraiture, and Rosa Isidorovna Pasternak (née Kaufman), a talented pianist. In their youth, Boris, his brother Alexander, and his two sisters, Josephine and Lydia, were exposed to a richly cultured environment of art, music, and literature. The famous author, Leo Tolstoy, was an admirer of Leonid’s work and sat for one of his most prominent portraits. The Pasternaks were, as a result, visitors on several occasions to Tolstoy’s Moscow residence and to his estate near Tula. The effect of this contact was to be felt in Pasternak’s later religious and philosophical views. The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who twice visited the Pasternaks, influenced young Boris to appreciate the role of the poet in society—a role he later assumed. It was the eccentric composer Aleksandr Scriabin who most determined Pasternak’s youthful endeavors. Under his influence, Pasternak studied music composition while attending Moscow’s German Classical...
(The entire section is 2259 words.)
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Pasternak was a significant Russian poet, translator, and novelist. Although he lived through the decades of totalitarian rule under V. I. Lenin and Joseph Stalin, his literary work did not create controversy until he submitted his manuscript for Doctor Zhivago to a Soviet publisher in the 1950’s. The editors concluded the novel was unsuitable for Soviet readers because its story about an idealistic young physician contained philosophical values and other descriptions that directly or indirectly ran counter to communist ideology. Events in the novel were accused of being unhistorical, as dictated by the communist literary theory of Socialist Realism.
Pasternak had not personally participated in political events during or after the 1917 Russian Revolution. He had been more of an observer than an activist, and his literary portrayal of the fictional Zhivago’s ethical and moral standards was not intended as a political manifesto. However, the novel did express Zhivago’s humane outlook that eventually was overwhelmed by the power and intellectual narrowness of a totalitarian ideology. This perspective constituted Zhivago’s—and Pasternak’s—crime against the state.
A short-lived period of greater cultural openness in the Soviet Union that had followed Stalin’s death in 1953...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
The eldest son of the celebrated Russian Jewish painter Leonid Pasternak and his wife, the musician Rosa Kaufman, Boris Leonidovich Pasternak abandoned an early interest in music for the study of philosophy at the Universities of Moscow and later Marburg, where he remained until returning to Russia at the outbreak of World War I, at which time he began to write seriously. From his literary debut in 1913 to 1914 with “The Story of a Contraoctave” and a collection of lyrics, “A Twin in the Clouds,” Pasternak devoted the whole of his creative life to literature. Most of his short fiction and both long epic poetry and shorter lyrics, headed by the collection Sestra moia zhizn’: Leto 1917 goda (1922; My Sister, Life, 1964), occupied him for the next fifteen years. His first autobiography, Okhrannaya gramota (1931; A Safe-Conduct, 1945) foreshadowed his personal and artistic survival through the Stalinist purges of the 1930’s, when a new moral direction became evident in his work, demonstrated in fragments of a novel he never finished. Although he again wrote lyric poetry during World War II, Pasternak answered Soviet postwar restrictions on creativity by mainly supporting himself with his translations, producing versions of works by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and William Shakespeare. He also began the novel that he eventually considered his finest achievement, Doctor Zhivago, in which he...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak’s life was shaped by Russia’s twentieth century agony. Pasternak’s father, the artist Leonid Pasternak, and his mother, the pianist Rosa Kaufman, assured him easy familiarity with the artistry of the West in their warm and affluent home in Moscow, which remained Pasternak’s “holy city” throughout his life. With Anna Akhmatova, Osip Mandelstam, Marina Tsvetayeva, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Sergei Esenin, the constellation of Russian twentieth century poets, Pasternak grew up in the nervous splendor of prerevolutionary Russia. In his father’s house, Pasternak, at the age of ten, first met the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, whose work profoundly affected Pasternak’s concept of the spiritual value of individual destiny, and his early acquaintance with composer Aleksandr Scriabin reinforced his youthful decision in 1903 to study music.
Russia’s discontent under Nicholas II had been smoldering, and it erupted in the “Bloody Sunday” massacre of January, 1905, adding internal strife to the external drain on Russia posed by the Russo-Japanese War. Pasternak’s father staunchly supported the liberals, who succeeded in establishing a Russian duma, or legislative assembly, but after a harrowing year of illness, cold, and civil disorder, the family left for Germany, where young Pasternak was constantly exposed to experimental art forms.
A crucial audition with Scriabin in 1909 caused Pasternak to search his soul...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: World Poets)
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was born in Moscow on February 10, 1890 (January 29, Old Style). He was the first and most illustrious of four children born to the painter Leonid Osipovich Pasternak and the pianist Rosa Isidorovna Kaufman. A close family relationship and a deeply cultured atmosphere marked his childhood. The influence of the Russian Orthodox religion came to this child of predominantly Jewish roots through his nurse Akulina Gavrilovna and was to reappear during his later years. Leonid Pasternak’s literary associations, particularly with Leo Tolstoy and Rainer Maria Rilke, were to prove very important to Pasternak’s development, although perhaps the most powerful influence on him was exerted by the composer Aleksandr Scriabin. Scriabin was his idol from 1903 to 1909, when Pasternak also began composing. Disillusioned in 1909, he abandoned the pursuit of a musical career and turned to philosophy. A trip to Marburg in 1912, then the philosophical center of Germany, where he was to study under Professor Hermann Cohen, seemed to be the ultimate fulfillment of his dreams. Then a sentimental crisis, Ida Vysofskaya’s refusal of his proposal of marriage, led him to abandon philosophy and to turn to poetry—without, however, his losing altogether the musical gift and the philosophical preoccupations that are evident in his works.
Upon his return to Moscow, Pasternak became involved in literary circles and devoted himself completely to poetry....
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Early Life (Dictionary of World Biography: The 20th Century)
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was born on February 10, 1890, in Moscow, the first child of Leonid Osipovich Pasternak, an artist renowned for his portraiture, and Rosa Isidorovna Pasternak (née Kaufman), a talented pianist. In their youth, Boris, his brother Alexander, and his two sisters, Josephine and Lydia, were exposed to a richly cultured environment of art, music, and literature. The famous author, Leo Tolstoy, was an admirer of Leonid’s work and sat for one of his most prominent portraits. The Pasternaks were, as a result, visitors on several occasions to Tolstoy’s Moscow residence and to his estate near Tula. The effect of this contact was to be felt in Pasternak’s later religious and philosophical views. The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who twice visited the Pasternaks, influenced young Boris to appreciate the role of the poet in society—a role he later assumed. It was the eccentric composer Aleksandr Scriabin who most determined Pasternak’s youthful endeavors. Under his influence, Pasternak studied music composition while attending Moscow’s German Classical Grammar School. At school, Pasternak enjoyed foreign languages, especially German, and philosophy. He took an interest in the poetry of the Russian Symbolists Innokenty Annensky and Aleksandr Blok. Through his father he met the founder of the Soviet literary doctrine of Socialist Realism, Maxim Gorky, both in Moscow and in Berlin, to which the Pasternaks traveled in 1905 after the failed...
(The entire section is 402 words.)
Life’s Work (Dictionary of World Biography: The 20th Century)
In 1913, Pasternak had five of his poems published in a Moscow almanac called Lirika. The group that sponsored this almanac soon merged with a Futurist group, Centrifuge, through which Pasternak came under the influence of Vladimir Mayakovsky, the revolutionary poet who had been a passing acquaintance of Pasternak in school. In 1914, Russia’s participation in World War I began, and Pasternak was drafted for service; he was soon exempted, however, because of his leg, which had improperly healed after a fracture sustained in a fall from a horse in 1903. In 1914, his first collection of verse, Bliznets v tuchakh (twin in the clouds), was published, and, while staying on the estate of the Lithuanian poet Jurgis Baltrushaitis, he translated Heinrich von Kleist’s Der zerbrochene Krug (1808; The Broken Jug, 1930) into Russian. By the time his translation was published with Gorky’s personal editorship in Sovremennik (the contemporary) in 1922, Pasternak was roundly acclaimed as an author and a poet. Early prose writings such as “Apellesova cherta” (1918; the mark of Apelles) and especially “Detstvo Liuvers” (1922; the childhood of Liuvers), with its depiction of a child’s growing awareness of an adult world, established Pasternak as a leading stylist. His collections of verse, Poverkh bari erov (1917; Above the Barriers, 1959) and Sestra moia zhizn’: Leto 1917 goda (1922; My Sister,...
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Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 20th Century)
Boris Pasternak left a legacy of poetic achievement. Through his poetry he labored to create something profound and beautiful—a different way of appreciating reality given to the reader. He was unable to make his poetry adapt to the rigors of social utility and so he escaped into translation, the competence of which still enriches Russian-speaking peoples everywhere. The work for which he is best known is his novel Doctor Zhivago, the political impact of which stands in ironical juxtaposition to its content—a veritable paean to the apoliticality of artistic achievement. Banned from publication in its native land for almost a quarter century—only in 1989 was a Russian version printed in the Soviet Union—Doctor Zhivago’s characters and poems are nevertheless widely known and held in high esteem.
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (PAS-tur-nak) was born in Russia in the city of Moscow on February 10, 1890 (January 29 by the Julian calendar used in Russia until the Bolshevik Revolution of October, 1917). His family was well known and comfortable, his father, Leonid Pasternak, a famous artist and his mother, Rozaliya Kaufmann, a professional pianist. Young Boris grew up in a house frequently visited by writers, composers such as Aleksandr Scriabin and Sergei Rachmaninoff, painters, and scholars.
The young Pasternak studied philosophy and literature at Moscow University and took courses in musical composition at the famous Moscow Conservatory, hoping to become a professional musician. In 1912, he traveled to Marburg, Germany, where he studied European philosophy. He returned to Moscow and graduated from the university in 1913, yet he decided to become neither a musician nor a philosopher but chose to be a poet instead. His first book of verses, Bliznets v tuchakh (1914; a twin in rainclouds), was published a year later, and a second collection, Poverkh barierov (1917; Above the Barriers, 1959), appeared in 1917.
Exempted from military service, Pasternak spent most of World War I in the Ural Mountains. He returned to Moscow after the revolution of February, 1917, that had swept away the czar’s government. He was...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Boris Pasternak asks his reader to make a radical reevaluation of what passes for everyday reality. He insisted that all poetry, in which he included both verse and prose, tends to the realistic because the poet “does not invent metaphors, rather they are found in nature ready to be reproduced.” A poet’s originality is to be prized, but not as if it were creation itself. It is precisely when poets, like his idol Vladimir Mayakovsky, turn to helping earthly powers create facts that they lose their poetic vision, crush their talent, and neutralize their moral sense.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (PAS-tur-nak) is considered by many to be the most significant post-Revolution poet of the Soviet Union. He was born to Leonid Pasternak, an accomplished painter, and Rosa Kaufman, a concert pianist, and in their home he became acquainted with some of the foremost authors and composers of the times, among them Leo Tolstoy, Rainer Maria Rilke, Anton Rubinstein, and Aleksandr Scriabin. Under the influence of Scriabin, Pasternak first planned to become a composer, but in 1912, after interrupting his studies at Moscow University to spend the summer studying under the eminent neo-Kantian philosopher, Hermann Cohen, at the University of Marburg, his interest shifted to philosophy. While in Marburg he also experienced a disappointment in love, which he poignantly describes in his poem “Marburg.” Some time later he turned from logic to the more emotional discipline of poetry and two years later published his first volume of poetry. His early poetry shows the influences of Scriabin, Andrey Bely, and the Symbolist Aleksandr Blok. His second volume of poems, Above the Barriers, reveals the influence of Vladimir Mayakovsky, the Futurist poet whom he had met in 1917.
Unable to serve in World War I because of an earlier leg injury, he was free to devote considerable time to writing and to his thoughts on aesthetics. The Urals,...
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Biography (Novels for Students)
Boris Pasternak was born in 1890 in Moscow to professional artists. His father was a painter who illustrated the works of famed Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, and his mother was a concert pianist. Pasternak grew up surrounded by outstanding artists; for example, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke was a frequent visitor in his home.
Pasternak was well educated in the liberal arts. He studied art, music, and philosophy, but his first love was poetry. His first collection of poetry was published in 1914 but went unnoticed. Almost a decade later, however, Pasternak gained the public’s attention with his poetry collections Sestra moya zhizn (My Sister Life, 1922), and Temy i variatsii (Themes and Variations, 1923). Although his novel received more attention in the United States, Pasternak is mostly remembered in Russia for his poetry.
Pasternak was fascinated by the Russian Revolution of 1905, and unlike many of his contemporaries, he did not emigrate to another country to escape the violence. He had studied philosophy in Germany and was inspired by the writings of Karl Marx (1818–1883), made famous by his book Communist Manifesto (1848), and the political activist and writer Maxim Gorky (1868–1936). Details of the war and some of his own experiences during the revolution found their way into Pasternak’s poetry, as well as his only finished work of fiction, Doctor Zhivago. However, as the revolution continued and the...
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