Safe Conduct is an intellectual autobiography, tracing in memory Pasternak’s choice of poetry as the dominant preoccupation of his life. The turning points arise from subconscious motives, but the work is the effort to bring these choices into the light of the mind, showing the poet’s emerging understanding of art and of his poetic aims. Safe Conduct is rich in the theoretical formulations that, carried out in his works, constitute the real life, the biography, of this artist. Just as he sees the value of Rilke’s poetry in its influence on his own work, so Pasternak’s unique legacy is his ideas about art, embodied in his works. His autobiography shows the coming into being of these governing preoccupations.
Safe conduct is a document allowing a person to proceed without interference. What Pasternak seems to have meant by this title is some benevolent protection, perhaps within himself, allowing him to find his way to his vocation. The purpose of the account is to achieve a new artistic orientation. The method is reflection on past events involving five significant human figures in his life: Rilke, Scriabin, Cohen, a beloved girl, and Mayakovsky.
In Safe Conduct, the importance of Rilke is in Pasternak’s definition of what the biography of a poet must contain. It cannot follow the “vertical” line of chronological narrative. The subconscious of the poet operates in the lives of his readers, as Rilke does...
(The entire section is 1218 words.)
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