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Doctor Zhivago
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RUSSIA > 12. DR ZHIVAGO - BOOK AS A WHOLE, POEMS OF YURI ZHIVAGO AND FINAL THOUGHTS ~ August 20th - August 26st (SPOILER THREAD)

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 34111 comments Mod
For those of you who have completed the book and/or who want to discuss aspects of the book which are beyond our weekly assignments in the non spoiler threads, this thread is a spoiler thread where you can discuss those points. Also, this is the thread where readers can discuss the poetry of Pasternak (poems of Yuri Zhivago) in the book.

If you have completed the book and would like to tell us what you thought about this selection, please feel free to discuss your opinions in a respectful way here.

However, please no links to personal reviews because we consider that self promotion. Simply post your thoughts here without the links.

Many folks read ahead of the weekly assignment and that is OK too; however, you must make sure that your posted comments on the other weekly non spoiler threads do not reflect reading ahead of the posted weekly assignment. If you would like to discuss aspects of the book further along, this is a spoiler thread where you can do just that.

We try to move along the discussion slowly on the weekly non spoiler threads but realize that some folks like to move along swiftly. So we have options for both groups of folks.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak by Boris PasternakBoris Pasternak


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Chapter Overviews and Summaries:

The Poems of Doctor Zhivago


Hamlet

March

Holy Week

White Night

Bad Roads in Spring

Explanation

Summer in Town

Wind

Hopbines

False Summer

Wedding

Autumn

Fairy Tale

August

Winter Night

Parting

Encounter

Star of the Nativity

Dawn

Miracle

Earth

Evil Days

Magdalene

Garden of Gethsemane


message 3: by Becky (last edited Aug 19, 2012 03:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments This is a list of questions to revisit after we finish the novel:

1) Is "Dr. Zhivago" a historical novel?

2) "The Nobel Prize in Literature 1958 was awarded to Boris Pasternak 'for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition'."
http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prize...

Do you find Doctor Zhivago to be "in the field of the great Russian epic tradition" ?''

3. How does the classic movie compare to the classic "novel?"


Joanne | 649 comments Becky wrote: "This is a list of questions to revisit after we finish the novel:

1) Is "Dr. Zhivago" a historical novel?"


This short list is very appealing following a very long book.

I'm ready to say that "Dr. Zhivago" is not an historical novel, nor a political novel, nor even a philosophical novel. It is a mix of forms, including the stand alone poetry. I most enjoyed the monologues, which were possibly the least integrated aspect of the book. If we are to accept Pasternak's last comments, it is a sort of tone poem to Moscow. Lives begin there, take their own shape, move away like ribbons of water, flowing this way and that, only to return there to be consumed by the city. Moscow is the mother. She also holds the graves.


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Heh - it is kinda short, huh? - so I added one more - other than that - go for it - book as a whole.

About the one question (#1) - I agree - I'd say Dr. Zhivago is historical literature as opposed to historical fiction. It's similar to many other classics which give great insight into the place and times, but they are written for contemporary readers so the authors don't need to include much in the way of explanation. Dombey and Son by DIckens is like that - a great resource for what life was like in mid-19th century England with an industrial revolution focus, but the 21st century reader needs some background.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens Charles DickensCharles Dickens


Joanne | 649 comments I want to thank everyone who took part in this Zhivago journey, especially Becky who did a superb job as moderator. If I had been alone with Pasternak, I would have given up and I'm very glad I stayed with him until the end. Looking back, there is much value in his rather difficult book, though it is a bit astonishing to me that was a bestseller in the U.S. I wonder how many readers in 1960 actually finished the book. Were they instead caught up in the extraordinary event of its publication? Thanks again, Becky, for leading us all onto the Zhivago train and keeping us, more or less, in our seats.


message 7: by G (new) - rated it 4 stars

G Hodges (GLH1) | 902 comments Joanne wrote: "I want to thank everyone who took part in this Zhivago journey, especially Becky who did a superb job as moderator. If I had been alone with Pasternak, I would have given up and I'm very glad I sta..."

Ditto, (and I love the train reference). I came into this cold and was amazed by the lucid and thoughtful comments everyone made as well as the terrific glossary. They made the book (which I have not yet finished) much more interesting.


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Well thank you both so much! :-) I'd read the book before this round but hadn't got nearly as much out of it as when I read more carefully this time - and there were all of you to help me along! Thank you again.

It's a good book - I don't know if it's really "great literature" but if you look there is an historical aspect to it and the structure is certainly experimental - the structure goes with the theme and plot - with a kind of chaotic and/or cyclical feeling. (Can those two be present at the same time?)


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments So what do you think of the poems? I was't all that hot about them. Mostly what I got was the same themes - Life / death / resurrection / the life-nature cycle / seasons / Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Sad thing is that none of them really touched me but that could easily be due to translation.


The Poems of Pasternak - (about 122)
listed in alphabetical order -

http://www.poemhunter.com/boris-paste...


message 10: by Becky (last edited Aug 20, 2012 08:25AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments This is from the introduction to another translation of the chapter of poems where the author describes the difficulty of translation - interesting.

http://www.utoronto.ca/tsq/10/barnes1...

Boris Pasternak
The Poems of Doctor Zhivago
Translating the Zhivago Cycle

Pasternak's poetic style of various periods remains one of the most challenging to translate. At first sight it might seem that it is the complex earlier verse, based on a multitude of wordplays, that loses most in translation to other languages. Nevertheless, successful versions have been produced at various times by translators such as George Reavey, Robert Lowell, Lydia Pasternak Slater, Eugene Kayden, Peter France and John Stallworthy, who have given us English poetic renderings that in varying degrees balance the elements of "verbal music", rhythm, rhyme structure, and metaphor in Pasternak's early lyrics.

In his later verse, Pasternak consciously cultivated a more transparent poetic idiom, striving towards Pushkinian ideals, and pursuing a new and "unheard-of" simplicity". On the face of it, such writing ought to be more congenial to translation, offering the chance of closer equivalence in English and a clearer impression of the, in many cases, magnificent originals. Surprisingly, however, Pasternak's poetry of the 1930s, and of the World War 2 and postwar period (including the poems of Doctor Zhivago) has remained tantalizingly resistant to the efforts of English translators. There has been no shortage of translators - the above-named have been joined by such as Michael Harari, Donald Davie and Bernard Guilbert Guerney, and the present offerings are a further addition to this body of translated verse. The problem arising is similar to that facing translators of Pushkin, or Akhmatova among the moderns, or which, in the musical world, confronts interpreters of Mozart: the fluency, purity and simplicity of style seem to present so few technical problems, that a banality and blankness of expression can easily result, unwittingly reducing Pasternak to the level of John Betjeman or worse. It is for this reason that many readers and critics continue to prefer the simple prose renderings of the Zhivago poems, published in Max Hayward and Manya Harari's original translation of Doctor Zhivago, to other more elaborate attempts at "poetic" translation. There is also no denying the beauty of Guerney's more recent prose versions published in currently available North American editions of the novel, and which whose graceful and rounded expression offer a near-perfect version of the original's literal meaning, in itself so saturated that it partly compensates for a lack of other poetic qualities in these versions.

Nevertheless, Hayward, Harari, and Guerney notwithstanding, there still remains a temptation to translate the Zhivago poems in a way that reproduces, however partially, more of the elements of Pasternak's later verse style without major semantic concessions or distortions. It is on these grounds that one is bound to reject the versions by Robert Lowell and Donald Davie, which suffer from an inadequate understanding of Russian as well as a too obvious attempt to make "English poetry" out of Pasternak's poems. Clearly, to create fine English verse from a great Russian (or other foreign) original would require a poetic translator no less talented than the original author - but then this would be a new and inimitable work of original creativity, probably removed in spirit from the original as Pasternak's own Russian versions of Shakespeare and Goethe's Faust were. The ideal translation must therefore, in this second respect, be a compromise. Among Pasternak's translators Lydia Pasternak Slater, the poet's own sister, came nearer than most to the spirit of the Russian, producing verses that are, as she claimed, "close in their sound and general pattern to those of the Russian originals". She also sensibly realized the need to cultivate assonance rhyme and avoid the regular chime of alternating rhyme endings that are characteristic even of much modern Russian verse. The main defect of her versions arose probably from her non-native knowledge of English and a tendency to use inversions (of verb and object, noun and adjective) that sometimes gave her lines a dated rather than "modern" appearance.

It is easy, of course, for latecomers to quibble with the work of predecessors. I am well aware that translation is not an exact science, but an evolving, changing, and subjective art form. There can thus be no one single, ideal rendering and the present rhymed and rhythmic versions of the Zhivago cycle are just one contribution to the multiple versions that might partially capture the spirit of the Russian. Anyone familiar with the original Russian is bound to feel disappointed and deprived, and there are some features of even these late and simple poems by Pasternak that are bound to elude translation. The title of the poem "Intoxication" is "Khmel'" in Russian, which both means the state of intoxication and denotes the hop-plant whose fermentation leads to this state; the main conceit of the poem is in fact built around this ambiguity, impossible to reproduce neatly in English. The poem is also one of the weaker items in the cycle. Anna Akhmatova tartly commented that Pasternak should have known better at his age than to write verse of such juvenile eroticism. In other respects, however, the finest nature and religious poems in this cycle are among the best work Pasternak ever produced. Like much of Akhmatova, too, they deserve repeated translation and importation into other linguistic cultures. Hopefully, the nobility of the task may partly compensate for defects in its execution….

Poems (no cover) by Anna AkhmatovaAnna Akhmatova
Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust]
William ShakespeareWilliam Shakespeare


message 11: by Becky (last edited Aug 20, 2012 06:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Becky wrote: (in the article) " 'Anna Akhmatova tartly commented that Pasternak should have known better at his age than to write verse of such juvenile eroticism. In other respects, however, the finest nature and religious poems in this cycle are among the best work Pasternak ever produced.' "

Ha! - Akhmatova says it better than I could - nevertheless, I do appreciate the work of poets and their translators.

How do the poems fit with the book? Do you think we are meant to align them to the narrative? Do any line up for you?

Any "history" type meaning in the poems?


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Historical fiction is sometimes said to bring history to life, to show the relevance in the lives if imaginary (or sometimes historical characters). Do you have a better sense of Russia during the times between 1905 (or so) through 1923 (or so), does Doctor Zhivago make the "times come alive" or "give flesh to the facts?"


Joanne | 649 comments Becky wrote: "Historical fiction is sometimes said to bring history to life, to show the relevance in the lives if imaginary (or sometimes historical characters). Do you have a better sense of Russia during the ..."

I came to the book already fairly familiar with the period and conditions in Russia during this time. Having said that, I don't feel that "Doctor Zhivago" expanded my understanding.


Joanne | 649 comments Becky wrote: "This is from the introduction to another translation of the chapter of poems where the author describes the difficulty of translation - interesting.

http://www.utoronto.ca/tsq/10/barnes1...

B..."


Thanks for this discussion of Pasternak's poetry and the challenge of translation. Until I can read them in Russian, I don't feel I can evaluate them. Additionally, I don't know enough about the form as it evolved in Russia, nor do I have a deep knowledge of Pushin, etc. So, I too am left with the obvious themes which support(and perhaps distill?) the book.


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Joanne wrote: "...nor do I have a deep knowledge of Pushin, etc... "

I would LOVE to be able to read some of the great novels in the language of origin.

I've read Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (in English - heh) and thoroughly appreciated it - I think it's definitely a part of the "great Russian literary tradition" as is Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Gogol, others - and I'd include Pasternak because although Pasternak's style and vision are much different so is all of society for Pasternak. Doctor Zhivago feels, in style and substance, to be, of necessity, more about the death of the great Russian literary tradition than "within" it.


Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin Alexander PushkinAlexander Pushkin
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy Leo TolstoyLeo Tolstoy
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol Nikolai GogolNikolai Gogol
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky Fyodor DostoyevskyFyodor Dostoyevsky


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Joanne wrote: "I came to the book already fairly familiar with the period and conditions in Russia during this time. Having said that, I don't feel that "Doctor Zhivago" expanded my understanding."

I knew a lot more about Russian history prior to the Revolution than about the Revolution itself or how connected the Revolution was with WWI and how complex the Civil War was. Doctor Zhivago certainly made the times, the effect on people's lives, apparent - especially if the lives of the Gromekos and Zhivagos and Antipovs can be judged as typical at all. I think that may have been the point?


Joanne | 649 comments Becky wrote: "Joanne wrote: "I came to the book already fairly familiar with the period and conditions in Russia during this time. Having said that, I don't feel that "Doctor Zhivago" expanded my understanding."..."

I agree, the point was to experience the chaos from the point of view of several individuals, whose expectations for life were destroyed. It makes me think of my ancestors whose lives were shaken by the American Civil War. As Southern aristocrats, their world was completely destroyed. Some survived and adapted, others were lost and adrift in a world they didn't recognize and could not control.


FrankH | 76 comments I enjoyed these discussions very much. Thanks to all participants for comments both informed and visceral. Becky, a superb job with a challenging book and history -- I've learned much from your wide-ranging posts. I know this must have represented a substantial chunk of your time. Kudos, also, on the fascinating post re: translation difficulties of the poems. I'm wondering if, in a nutshell, the problem isn't about that aspect of form that manifests content??

On the questions:

We have lots of selective historical data in Doctor Zhivago, little historical intelligence. In this sense, on a cultural level, the book is ahistorical, lemonysnicketlike. Things happen, more things happen, we can identify and condemn the byproducts of the Revolution, but we are not meant to concern ourselves with the connections, the origins, the reasons why. Using the terms introduced by Becky, most historical fictions, I would think, explain history through the action of the characters (ex. Wolf Hall, which I'm reading now); historical literature explains the lives of its characters running in parallel to a specific, evolving historical context, which in various ways enriches the fundamental story (ex. The Plot Against America). Doctor Zhivago does neither; it majors in the atemporal patterns of thought, human interaction and aspiration that lie outside of History, while minoring in philosophical meditation that only marginally references historical events.

Like Becky, I'm reading Zhivago for the second time. I continue to be favorably impressed by the richness of imagery and the way Pasternak poetically deconstructs an event or scene, providing unique insight. I believe it's clearly linked to classic Russian literature, but by parts of content only, not form. Prompted by the lucid comments in these discussions, I've started to see how some aspects of Yuri's character and behavior create an unintentional ambiguity that undermines the power of the basic story. And, in my judgment, there are artistic mis-steps -- the bathos of the final departures from Varyinko, the near iconization of Moscow, the city on a hill, after building so much imagery and storyline elsewhere. For the most part, I think the critical weighting of symbolism in Zhivago is overstated. For me, symbols operate in Doctor Zhivago as mostly subtle hints and suggestions, without rigor, though perhaps there's the one noteworthy exception, the railroad and trains, ahem, freighted with meaning. I keep thinking if Zhivago stands for 'life', why are we seeing him somnabulant much of the time? I may want to revise this view, once I can get my hands on some Blok for a better understanding of his work and influence on Pasternak.

As to the Lean movie, as much as I liked it as a young man, it's doesn't seem especially faithful to the novel. I'd enjoy seeing a sub-titled version of the Russian mini-series, which may map more closely.


Wolf Hall (Wolf Hall, #1) by Hilary Mantel Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mantel
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth Philip RothPhilip Roth


message 19: by Joanne (last edited Aug 20, 2012 08:50AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joanne | 649 comments FrankH wrote: "I enjoyed these discussions very much. Thanks to all participants for comments both informed and visceral. Becky, a superb job with a challenging book and history -- I've learned much from your ..."

Thanks, Frank, for all your thoughtful and thought- provoking posts!


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments FrankH wrote: "...fascinating post re: translation difficulties of the poems. I'm wondering if, in a nutshell, the problem isn't about that aspect of form that manifests content?? "

Heh - could be - there did seem to be some content missing - but that may have been true of the book as a whole as well; some readers felt at times as though they were "missing something." On the other hand, Pasternak may have been very subtle, painted with a very light brush, in his original. Finally, we in the 21st century have a hugely different aesthetic sensibilities.

Thank you so much for your kind words. They are hugely appreciated. Yes, I did spend a substantial amount of time on this book but in so many ways it was a labor of love. I have a history major type background and only an autodidact's basis for any literary comments.

And thank you Frank for your well-informed, beautifully written and enlightening posts. So often right exactly on the money, other times opening up additional avenues of thought, or just purely enjoyable reading.

Joanne, you've been a delight here - thank you for participating and bringing your gentle stir to the pot - you made me think and sometimes rethink, back off a bit or feel validated. It's been hugely appreciated. (And a special thanks for making me watch the movie!)

G, when you get here, your posts on Mary Magdalene and other religious symbolism kept us (me) on track regarding an element that was present, although at times a bit hidden, from the first to the last page and gives the book a kind of haunting aspect.


message 21: by Joanne (last edited Aug 20, 2012 11:22AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joanne | 649 comments Becky wrote: "FrankH wrote: "...fascinating post re: translation difficulties of the poems. I'm wondering if, in a nutshell, the problem isn't about that aspect of form that manifests content?? "

Heh - could b..."


Is it really over?




Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Joanne wrote: "Is it really over?"

I've not sung yet - so - no, it can't be over. (lol)

Seriously - not until the end of the week at least - Sunday August 26, and I believe the boards are left up for some time after that for members who want to catch up.

So please feel free to add whatever comments you feel appropriate - thoughts about the poems, themes, style of Doctor Zhivago. How would a good historical fiction about these troubled 20th century times of Russia read ? Have you read any?

How about non-fiction (history) which would illuminate 20th century Russia?


message 23: by Becky (last edited Aug 20, 2012 12:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments What other historical fiction (Russian?) or other Russian fiction have you enjoyed - any recommendations?

I truly enjoyed Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which Frank mentioned. The point of view - (intimate third person?) made it really stand out although I understand it irritated some people. Mantel certainly does cast a different, more positive, light on Thomas Cromwell!

Wolf Hall (Wolf Hall, #1) by Hilary Mantel by Hilary MantelHilary Mantel


Lenin's Era:

Of Russian historical fiction re the 20th Century - I'd recommend Mikail Bulgakov's The White Guard - fabulous book - a classic. The setting is in and around the city of Kiev during the end of the Civil War and the tale revolves around a family of middle class Whites having to adjust. This is partly autobiographical and, oddly, Bulgakov presents his hero as a doctor. The scenes involve battles and historical characters. It was rewritten as a play which Stalin loved but the whole novel wasn't released until after Stalin's death.

The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakovby Mikhail BulgakovMikhail Bulgakov

On a different literary level is James Meek's fascinating and well-researched A People's Book of Love (longlisted for the Booker 2005) which takes place in Siberia 1919 and involves a rather strange Christian sect in league with the stranded Czech troops as well as some Whites in opposition to the Bolshevik forces moving in.

The People's Act of Love by James Meek by James Meek (no photo)


Stalin's Era

Mikail Gorbachev's The Master and Margarita - usually noted as the author's best work - was not published until 1966, long after both the author and Stalin were dead. He had burned the first copy - seeing no future for himself as a writer in Russia and Stalin refused to allow him to leave. Then he started rewriting and almost finished when he died. His wife hid the book until 1966 when it was published for private reading (samizdat) in a heavily censored and edited edition. It's a kind of dark Russian magical realism / satire of Stalinist Russia, highly symbolic, almost an allegory.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov by Mikhail BulgakovMikhail Bulgakov

Another novel about the Stalinist era I highly recommend is The First Circle by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It's a really long book but it is so incredibly well written, well translated, etc. He lived the times (Stalin era) so I don't know if it's really "historical" fiction, but like Doctor Zhivago it certainly presents a non-"official" view of the situation. It first came out in an abbreviated and somewhat altered form and had a slightly different title. The one on the market now is the original version.

The First Circle by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn Aleksandr I. SolzhenitsynAleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

And finally, again on a different literary level (although shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2008), is Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. This is serial killer type of detective story in a world (Stalin's) where, officially, there is "no crime" because Stalin's world is perfect - only re-education or medical help is needed for some people.

Child 44 (Leo Demidov #1) by Tom Rob Smith by Tom Rob SmithTom Rob Smith

I know I've likely missed a lot of good novels about early 20th Century Russia, the period of war, revolution, war, dictatorship, war again - do any spring to mind?


message 24: by Becky (last edited Aug 21, 2012 09:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Just to post in this thread and also because we kind of skimmed the question - what are your reactions to the poetry?

There is a volume devoted to these alone - the poems are accompanied by illustrations by Bill Greer.

the poems of doctor zhivago by Boris Pasternak Boris PasternakBoris Pasternak

This is a review of that volume from:
http://www.webster.edu/~corbetre/pers...

Comments by Bob Corbett
June 2009

This is a lovely little book which is excerpted from the novel DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. Pasternak worked with this project, choosing the order of poems and allowing for some editing. The poems are accompanied by dark but haunting drawings by Bill Greer.

I read the novel many years ago, and have seen the film made from the novel several times. There are lots of scenes I recall, including that Zhivago wrote poetry, but I didn’t have any memory that poems themselves had appeared in the novel.What was pretty amazing to me is that Pasternak could not only write the appealing poems, but so within the character of Zhivago. To me that was quite an achievement. In my college days I fancied myself a poet and struggled over the handful of poems I wrote, seeking my voice and editing constantly. The notion of writing poems in a voice not one’s own and doing so convincingly is a noteworthy achievement to me.

The bulk of the poems have two features which are close to Zhivago. First there are the four seasons and Zhivago’s belief that life in general follows, as fundamental nature, the pattern of the seasons. He enriches his poems with many references and images of nature as mirroring human life problems and issues, and following a pattern of birth, development, maturity and decay. Secondly Zhivago emphasizes the closeness of the cycles of nature with the life of Jesus Christ. First birth to the development of spring, the death and then again, the renewal of the resurrection.

It’s a fascinating world view and one seemingly most common before the Industrial Revolution. After that things gradually seem to have changed and abandoned this dominant cyclical image of human existence and religion.

Zhivago’s gentleness of person and attention to the harmony with nature emphases consistently the person whom he is.

Almost every poem has nature and images of nature at their center. A typical example is AUTUMN.

I’ve given leave to all who’re dear
And near to me to go their way.
The world is empty; in my heart
I feel my lifelong loneliness.

We’re now together in this lodge,
Alone. The forest is deserted.
As in our ancient songs, the trails
Run wild in brambles and in weeds.

The timbered walls in quiet sadness
Regard both you and me. We made
No vows to cross all obstacles,
And so we’ll simply face our end.

We’ll meet as one -- I with a book,
And you with your embroidery;
We shall forget at break of day
How long our kissing in the night.

Let leaves spin headlong down, ablaze
In glory, splendid in their death,
And swell our cup of bitter grief
And anguish deeper day by day.

Let storm winds strew as leaves afar
Our life, devotion, beauty, joy!
Like a leaf in autumn, drift away,
Go half insane, out, out of sight

Yet as the coppice flings its leaves
Upon the air, you loose your dress
And, in your silken dressing-gown,
You fall into my waiting arms.

You are my gift of life when days
Grow baneful, worse than the disease,
Heroic life is the root of beauty,
And it draws together you and me.



Several other poems center around the theme of life of Jesus, often emphasizing power and prestige which give way to collapse and ruin – before the resurrection and history. The last three stanzas of HOLY WEEK emphasize this theme.


March scatters handfuls of the snow Like alms among the lame,
As though a man had carried out
The holy Ark outside the church,
And gave its all unto the poor.
They sing until the sunrise hour.

Then, having wept their fill,
Their chants of the Psalms and Acts
Flow with an air serene
Into an empty lamplit street.

All creatures hear the voice of spring
In the still of night, believing
That when good weather comes
Death itself shall he destroyed
By the travail of the Resurrection.


This was a pleasant read, taking me back to a simpler day when people seemed to be in much greater harmony with nature and saw nature as the model of the basic form of human existence.


message 25: by G (new) - rated it 4 stars

G Hodges (GLH1) | 902 comments "Heroic life is the root of beauty"... I could quote Byron here, but my opinions about the overwrought Pasternak are already known. Just let me say that Zhivago was not chivalrous, no matter how Pasternak tried to spin it. Perhaps he had a different definition of Heroic.

On the plus side, I saw the book not as a novel, but as a series of tone poems, with the help of those of you who saw the music in the novel. And ending with his poetry (also terribly earnest), reinforced that perception. I can't consider it a novel, really, because there was no continuous narrative. Literature, perhaps. The visuals were spectacular, but random. The symbolism ebbed and flowed giving the impression that Pasternak was not sure of his own point until he came to his poetry and tied it all up even if the Christian allegory was heavy handed.

He loves Russia. His descriptions of the natural landscape were magnificent. He loves tragic beauty. Only Lara was well defined. Neither Tonia nor Marina were given that respect. He loves the idea of rebirth, giving everyone and everything another chance. He made Zhivago an idea man, so that he could poetically explore the sturm und drang of the Russian metamorphosis.

This was not an enjoyable book for me - and I'd not read it before, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience. Thank you all for making it so. If I had read the book alone, not only would I have missed virtually everything of importance, but my personal perceptions of the characters would have completely taken the reins and the true value of the book would have eluded me.


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments G wrote: ""Heroic life is the root of beauty"... I could quote Byron here, but my opinions about the overwrought Pasternak are already known. Just let me say that Zhivago was not chivalrous, no matter how ..."

I am amazed at how much you got out of the book on your first reading, G! You were careful and not skimming all those descriptions to "cut to the chase" the way I did my first time. (heh) You picked out the themes you wanted to follow and seemed to keep excellent track of them.

I'm not overly fond of the book either, although I do appreciate what Pasternak accomplished. If I view Zhivago the character as a theme rather than as a man I do better because, in my opinion, he's not very well rounded - he's quite flat - we don't ever get inside him to appreciate individuality although it's obvious that Pasternak tried to imbue him with a complete personality - the book is just too concerned with being poetic and theme-based to be a great novel.

To me, it would seem that Doctor Zhivago fits the genre of poetry more than a novel. As someone said, it's "a poem in the form of a novel." On the other hand, Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, is "a novel in the form of a poem" ! (And the poem is in iambic tetrameter with the unusual rhyme scheme "AbAbCCddEffEgg.") Eugene Onegin has great characters, a good and well told story-line, plus a theme or two. ("That girl does read too much - fiction vs life.") I think as far as literature goes, I prefer Onegin.

But Doctor Zhivago is a very special work in its own way - it's just that the focus is far more on poetic style and themes with the result being those elements overpowering everything else.

From Eugene Onegin - setting the stage:
Book 2.

I
The place where Eugene loathed his leisure
was an enchanting country nook:
there any friend of harmless pleasure
would bless the form his fortune took.
The manor house, in deep seclusion,
screened by a hill from storm's intrusion,
looked on a river: far away
before it was the golden play
of light that flowering fields reflected:
villages flickered far and near,
and cattle roamed the plain, and here
a park, enormous and neglected,
spread out its shadow all around --
the pensive Dryads' hiding-ground.

Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin Alexander PushkinAlexander Pushkin


message 27: by G (new) - rated it 4 stars

G Hodges (GLH1) | 902 comments Becky wrote: "G wrote: ""Heroic life is the root of beauty"... I could quote Byron here, but my opinions about the overwrought Pasternak are already known. Just let me say that Zhivago was not chivalrous, no m..."

The poor book is littered with post it notes. Almost as many notes as pages!. I agree, though. Maybe Doctor Zhivago should be a singular genre: the poetry novel. But, he'd still need a narrative theme!


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments I know just what you mean about the notes! Plus I had snips and links from around the web.

I never did get the audio version - I still want to (oh dear - I'm hopeless) and just go through it without thinking, just know within me where we are, what we're doing, what things mean - no working for it this time. It looks amazing - the Pevear version narrated by John Lee (who has a very nice voice).

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak Boris PasternakBoris Pasternak


message 29: by Virginia (new)

Virginia (va-BBoomer) | 210 comments G wrote: ..I can't consider it a novel, really, because there was no continuous narrative. Literature, perhaps. The visuals were spectacular, but random. The symbolism ebbed and flowed. ...

I agree with G as I quoted from above. The narrative was broken a lot in ways I didn't totally understand. Pasternak didn't stick to a particular part of the story but would interrupt with sudden action change. It seems like we'd be on the train one minute, then in the middle of severe cold in a carriage the next and I couldn't find where we had been or were going.

To explain myself, I have to mention the movie. I had trouble 'finding' the character of Zhivago in the book. He was, I feel, overwhelmed with life in both, but I saw a more rounded Zhivago in the movie, in spite of the difference in the story between them. His death was a heavily romantic tragedy in the movie, but a story part in the book. The outdoor scene descriptions, weather effects and atmosphere were almost identical between the book and movie. I felt desolate during the winter worlds - cold, scared about the extreme cold, yet the beauty of the snow was vivid. The war scenes, with soldiers moving and after-battle observations were absorbing in both media.

I feel I haven't been clear in expressing my opinions; that shows the confusion I feel that others here have also stated.

Becky, your work on this book was fabulous. As my stumbling may show, it was not an easy book to get into. But I've very glad I did read it. This thread definitely guided me along.

Almost forgot - the poetry, I feel, was definitely affected by translation. I wish I could read Russian.


message 30: by Joanne (last edited Aug 25, 2012 03:04PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Joanne | 649 comments Becky wrote: "I know just what you mean about the notes! Plus I had snips and links from around the web.

I never did get the audio version - I still want to (oh dear - I'm hopeless) and just go through it wi..."


I very much enjoyed John Lee's reading of the book. (Becky: can you help me easily locate the audio version to site?)

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternakby Boris PasternakBoris Pasternak


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments Joanne wrote: "I very much enjoyed John Lee's reading of the book. (Becky: can you help me easily locate the audio version to site?) "

Search books with ISBN 0307934381 (don't use "ISBN" - just the number. It should come up - it did for me. :-)

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak Boris PasternakBoris Pasternak


Joanne | 649 comments Becky wrote: "Joanne wrote: "I very much enjoyed John Lee's reading of the book. (Becky: can you help me easily locate the audio version to site?) "

Search books with ISBN 0307934381 (don't use "ISBN" - just th..."


Thanks for the tip! So important when there are dozens of versions.


message 33: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bentley | 34111 comments Mod
Becky, thanks for a great job on Dr. Zhivago.

Becky has been with us for a short time and is moving on but will still be an integral part of our group. Thanks for moderating two great books for the group.


Becky (httpsbeckylindrooswordpresscom) | 1220 comments You're quite welcome - I thoroughly enjoyed both books. :-)


message 35: by G (new) - rated it 4 stars

G Hodges (GLH1) | 902 comments Becky, I really learned a lot about reading this difficult book from you. Thank you so much!


Joanne | 649 comments Becky, You inspired me to the finish line!


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Books mentioned in this topic

Doctor Zhivago (other topics)
Dombey and Son (other topics)
Eugene Onegin (other topics)
War and Peace (other topics)
Dead Souls (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Boris Pasternak (other topics)
Charles Dickens (other topics)
Alexander Pushkin (other topics)
Leo Tolstoy (other topics)
Nikolai Gogol (other topics)
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