Analysis: Doctor Zhivago
Boris Pasternak worked on Doctor Zhivago between 1938 and 1956, when the savage circumstances within the Soviet Union permitted, but the evidence of his short fiction indicates that all of his creative life went into Doctor Zhivago. Incidents, characterizations, and the style of his other stories strongly resemble elements of the novel, and Ivinskaya saw in Zhenia Luvers “the Lara of the future,” a sensitive portrayal of the sad lot of women, one of Pasternak’s recurring themes. Nadezhda Mandelstam, the wife of Osip Mandelstam, observed that Pasternak could not proceed with the novel until the war provided “a momentarily restored sense of community” impossible during the purges of the 1930’s. Pasternak’s fruitless defense of Osip Mandelstam, who died in a transit camp en route to the mines of Kalyma, may also have strengthened his resolve to produce a chronicle of Russia’s intelligentsia, the “children of Russia’s terrible years,” as they are called in Doctor Zhivago. It became nothing less than his sacred duty.
By 1950, when he had survived physical and emotional blows that were only the beginning of his anguish, Pasternak observed to one of his many correspondents that “love of people and gratitude to the past for its brilliancea concern for repaying it with the same kind of beauty and warmth” were for him “spiritual valuesat the foundation of taste.” He gladly accepted the heavy price for his...
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