Yuri Krotkov Edward Crankshaw - Essay

Edward Crankshaw

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

['The Nobel Prize' is about] the 1958 prize for literature bestowed on Boris Pasternak and renounced by him under extreme and vicious pressure from the Soviet authorities, who threatened him with lifelong banishment….

Mr Krotkov has been seized with the idea of turning the story of this conflict into a novel. He knew Pasternak and his family quite well; he had observed Khrushchev at close quarters; he knew something of the political background to the condemnation of 'Dr Zhivago' and the subsequent harrying of its author to a premature death. He knew more than most about the complex relationship between Pasternak, his wife Zinaida, and his mistress, Olga Ivinskaya (who was rushed off to a labour-camp as soon as he was dead).

But all this knowledge is wasted because, presented in novel form, it is mixed up with a great deal of non-knowledge; so that the reader has no idea of what is fact and what is not….

[To] build a whole fiction out of the living and recently dead, appearing in their own characters under their own names, [is] beyond the powers of the most supreme genius. This is what Mr Krotkov has undertaken to do, evidently not understanding that when a novelist introduces real characters and offers what purports to be their secret thoughts and private words and actions, the reader's disbelief can no longer be suspended.

And the reader is right to disbelieve. The novelist...

(The entire section is 431 words.)