Boris Pasternak Additional Biography


(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

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 ended by late 1956—the moment when Pasternak’s manuscript was being considered for publication. After the Soviet publishers rejected it, it was...

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

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 discussed and analyzed the disintegrative reality of Russia’s conversion to Communism. At the end of 1946 he met his great love, Olga Ivinskaya, the model for the heroine of the novel, and although the Soviet authorities imprisoned her in an attempt to silence Pasternak’s apolitical praise of Christian values, he nevertheless completed the novel and allowed it to be published in 1957 in Italy. The Soviet regime retaliated by forcing Pasternak to refuse the Nobel Prize awarded him in 1958, the year his 1957 autobiography, Avtobiograficheskiy ocherk (1958; I Remember: Sketch for an Autobiography, 1959), appeared in the West. Crushed by depression and fear for those he loved, Pasternak died of leukemia in early 1960, and two months later, as he had dreaded, Ivinskaya was rearrested and sentenced again to prison.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

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...

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(World Poets and Poetry)

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...

(The entire section is 631 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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,...

(The entire section is 776 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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...

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(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...

(The entire section is 515 words.)