Banned Books Week: Doctor Zhivago

I’ve written before about the banning of Doctor Zhivago but I thought it would be good to kick off Really Banned Books Week with this article, and another imperative to anyone who hasn’t read it yet. This truly is one of the greats of Russian literature. Boris Pasternak was a poet first, and the language of this novel, even in English, flows and resonates in a way few other novelists can manage. Also, I’ve always been a fan of being able to do things despite oppressors (whether in my country or others) desperately wanting us not to. It’s practice and preparation in case something really does get banned in this country.

Here is another article about how the CIA, working with the Samizdat (the Russian word for a unofficial publishing and distribution network… an early dark network, if you will) managed to get an important book critical of the Russian Revolution to Russians. And here is a link to its Goodreads page along with a few reviews (not by me… mine would be even more hagiographic than these) that discuss the book itself and not just its impact. Because really, that is still the best reason to read this. The story moved me to tears in places. (N.B.:  You may wish to find the original translation. I’ve not compared the two,  but Mr Pasternak’s widow, and many other reviewers, claim that the recent anniversary translation robbed the book of a lot of its power.)

Rating: 5/5. It does take a while to really get going, and if you’ve seen the movie, you’re going to be confronted with some of the changes they made right off the bat. Still, this is my favourite book about the Revolution, and one of the best written about that tumultuous period in our history.


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