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Doctor Zhivago
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Group Reads Archive - 2013 > Doctoer Zhivago - Part 1 - Sept. 1-15

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Silver Here you may discuss the first part of Doctor Zhivago. Be aware that spoilers may be posted within this thread.


Rachel Green | 37 comments Random tangent: in my translation, the introduction mentions that Pasternak viewed Hamlet not as a drama of weakness but as a drama of duty and self-denial. thoughts?


message 3: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Rachel wrote: "Random tangent: in my translation, the introduction mentions that Pasternak viewed Hamlet not as a drama of weakness but as a drama of duty and self-denial. thoughts?"

Rachel are you referring to the poem Hamlet by Pasternak

Hamlet
The murmurs ebb; onto the stage I enter.
I am trying, standing in the door,
To discover in the distant echoes
What the coming years may hold in store.

The nocturnal darkness with a thousand
Binoculars is focused onto me.
Take away this cup, O Abba Father,
Everything is possible to Thee.

I am fond of this Thy stubborn project,
And to play my part I am content.
But another drama is in progress,
And, this once, O let me be exempt.

But the plan of action is determined,
And the end irrevocably sealed.
I am alone; all round me drowns in falsehood:
Life is not a walk across a field.

Or his view on Shakespeare's Hamlet?


Rachel Green | 37 comments Amalie, I was referring to Pasternak's views on Hamlet, although I wouldn't be surprised if that conversation touched upon Pasternak's poem as well.

I noticed in another thread that one issue with the P and V translation is the names; specifically, that you don't have a clear link between the different nicknames and the actual name. Also, the introduction of the characters tends to confuse things even more. This may have been answered in the other thread, but is this a P and V thing or a Pasternak thing?

So far though, everything is interesting. I really like how Pasternak invokes this sense that the world itself has an order, and this order is a living thing that interacts with human lives, just as humans interact with the world and one another. Very interesting concept.


message 5: by Amalie (new)

Amalie  | 650 comments Mod
Rachel wrote: "I noticed in another thread that one issue with the P and V translation is the names; specifically, that you don't have a clear link between the different nicknames and the actual name. Also, the introduction of the characters tends to confuse things even more. This may have been answered in the other thread, but is this a P and V thing or a Pasternak thing?..."

Well, characters in Russian novels always have 2 or 3 names but if this is extra confusing I'm guessing it's the translation not Pasternak.


message 6: by Rachel (last edited Sep 14, 2013 04:45PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rachel Green | 37 comments Aww, yes, that's what I meant. If Pasternak tended to go past the 2-3 name norm or it's the translation, but it's the translation.

I did want to draw attention to Yura's speech to Anna Ivanovna on consciousness in "The Christmas Party at the Sventitsky's". I found the monologue about resurrection, transformation, and the dangers of being self-conscious very striking.

Well, maybe self-conscious isn't the right word. It's like Yura says, it's being conscious of who you are by the impact you have on the world around you, and trying to become aware of who you are by focusing only on yourself is bad.

I've actually heard a similar argument regarding introspection; that in a sense, it's dangerous and selfish. What do others think? Should we avoid introspection, or turning our consciousness upon ourselves? As a pretty introspective person, I would argue that sometimes you do need to focus on your personal issues before you can help someone else. What do you think? Or do you think Pasternak was trying to explain something else entirely?


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Blumenfeld (Die_Libelle) | 19 comments Rachel, it's a very interesting point.

I think being self-aware, introspective is vital but too much introspection all of a sudden can be dangerous for someone who isn't used to this practice. I assume it can dread some. It is safer to think you know who you are and your identity is fixated. But I don't believe the latter.

I wish Pasternak had a book with his philosophical non-fiction 'musings'. I wonder whether he has written anything like it? Perhaps, it is a good idea to find his published letters.

I think of Yura as Pasternak himself. Constantly. I confess I cannot help myself.


message 8: by Rachel (last edited Sep 15, 2013 11:39AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rachel Green | 37 comments Hmm, I thought Yura was Pasternak's characterization of himself. Like, a deliberate characterization, and not just Pasternak later realizing that Yura reflected him.

I'll definitely look into whether Pasternak has any nonfiction that was later published.

What do people think about Yura's reflection on the difference in his mentality between his mother's funeral and Anna Ivanovna's funeral? I think it's very interesting to compare a child's perspective, where you feel surrounded by the world, to an adult's perspective, where you feel like a part of the world. Of course, I just think that this particular thought resonates with me at this point in my life.

What do others think? Also, was Pasternak saying that Yura had become an agnostic or deist or athiest? What do other translations imply?


Rachel Green | 37 comments What did everyone think about Gimazetdin's death in "Imminent Inevitabilities"? I thought it was particularly poignant that all of the people at the scence (Gimazetdin, Galiullin, Lara, Zhivago, and Gordon) had all interacted with each other in some way before, even if they weren't necessarily conscious of it.

It reminds me of two things. First, a relatively new word "sonder", which means the realization that everyone around you is living a life just as complex and vivid as yours, and that for many people, you don't exist, except perhaps as the driver in the car in front of them, or someone else on the train.

The passage also reminds me of the fact, that when you dream, people you don't recognize aren't just random people. People who appear in your dreams are someone you've seen at least once in your life, even if it just someone holding the door open for you at the grocery store. That's the kind of feelings that the passage evoked for me. Does anyone agree, disagree, or think I'm reading too much into this, haha?

Also, if you guys think I'm contributing too much, just let me know. I'm just trying to get conversations started, but I'm also aware that I've been pretty active in this thread, so just let me know.


message 10: by Alan (new)

Alan | 22 comments I think it is great you are so thoughtful on the book Rachel. I think some of us have moved away from the book or slowed down.


message 11: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 37 comments Ok, so Im late to this thread, the month has passed. But anyway...
Rachel, I also have the P&V translation, my copy is lovely though- includes a brief history, a name summary and all of the poems.
I also can't help thinking of Yuri as Pasternak, in spite of the fact that the novel is not written in the first person. I wonder if it is because he describes Yuri in more detail and glances over his faults, like one does a favorite child.
I'm only halfway through book one, so I may have to amend this comment.


message 12: by Rachel (last edited Oct 06, 2013 07:59PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rachel Green | 37 comments Oh, Lisa, are you talking about the P&V translation that was published this year? That's the copy I have, at least.

So, two thoughts about Yura's speech during his welcome back party. First, he says that he expects that when everyone looks back, they'll realize that they lived through more in five or ten years than most people do in a century. But don't you think that everyone says that? I mean, who hasn't lived through times when people were at war, or there was a major cultural or intellectual shift? I just feel like there's always so much going on that you can never say that people lived through a "quiet" time period.

Second, I definitely understand Yuri's sense of powerlessness to have a happy future, despite all of his attempts to secure one.

Overall, I feel that Pasternak has done a wonderful job of conveying the idea that each person is just one part in this complex system that we call life. He really does an excellent job conveying the philosophy that there is an interconnectedness between people and the world around us, as I've said before. What do you guys think?

Also, I think I just made up the word "interconnectedness"


message 13: by Daria (last edited Oct 09, 2013 08:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Daria | 4 comments Rachel, you are so insightful! I enjoy reading your thoughts!
What I would like to add is that Russian life had been pretty "quiet" before the 20th century. The position of noble Russians was secure and stable, at least they thought it was. So I think Yura was comparing his life to that of previous generations. Also Yura has to constantly "fight" for his happiness, which is also unusual for a young Russian nobleman as they used to get everything they wanted easily. That's why Yura is unprepared, he is just not cut out to be a survivor. What is interesting to me is that Pasternak deliberately gave this last name Zhivago to his main character. The word "zhivoy" means alive in Russian, so Zhivago is associated with someone living or even surviving (these verbs have the same root in Russian). What is more Yuri is a doctor, his calling is to save lives...


Rachel Green | 37 comments Oh, that makes much more sense. And I think Yura's doing a pretty good job of surviving so far. :)


Rachel Green | 37 comments What did everyone think about Yura's discovery of the newspaper in "The Moscow Encampment?" That must have been a relief, if only because it suggested the fighting might be ending.

I thought it was particularly interesting that Pasternak began the scene with the firewood by characterizing it as a mundane trifle of immeasurable importance. is it just me, or do important things tend to start out as minor occurrences?

I also enjoyed Yura's monologue about how something so life changing doesn't wait for "a new day" to begin. it just starts when it starts, regardless of whether the previous thing has finished. what do you guys think, especially since we tend to think of tomorrow as a new day, when we'll finally start/stop doing something?


message 16: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 37 comments Hi, I've just completed chapter four,
I feel very sorry for Lara, her life is a mess and she tries over and over to dig herself out, with marginal success.
I'm not wild about Yura, I think it's because he is so carefully crafted as better than everyone else by Pasternak. I agree Rachel about the interconnectedness and love the name translations.


Amyjzed | 44 comments Rachel wrote: "Aww, yes, that's what I meant. If Pasternak tended to go past the 2-3 name norm or it's the translation, but it's the translation.

I did want to draw attention to Yura's speech to Anna Ivanovna o..."


I am sure others here can say more about this, but I this reminds me of other aspects of social psychology developed in Russia at that time under the Soviet interpretation of materialism. In Vygotsky's view of the development of language, sound only has meaning the moment the mother responds to the child's cry, and dialogue is what first must give meaning to a person's thoughts and identity. I am sure I am expressing this crudely, but I was reminded exactly of this when I read Yura's explanation of individuals finding meaning in each other.


Alexandra | 30 comments Amyjzed wrote: "Rachel wrote: "Aww, yes, that's what I meant. If Pasternak tended to go past the 2-3 name norm or it's the translation, but it's the translation.

I did want to draw attention to Yura's speech to ..."


I am not sure what Rachel and Amyjzed mean here.

What I like about this book is the way that Pasternak leaves so much unsaid. He doesn't tell us what characters think about each other, we learn that from the form of their name that is used in that passage. He forces us to look beneath the surface of what is being said. It mirrors the theme that Lara talks about explicitly much later, the "falseness of the times" wheb no one says what they really think, hiding it under conventional speech.


Rachel Green | 37 comments Hi Alexandra! I'm not really sure what you're referring to when you say "I am not sure what Rachel and Amyjzed mean here." Are you referring to the discussion about names or Yura's speech? If it's the former, it was really me questioning whether the various nicknames were an invention by Pasternak or the translators.


Amyjzed | 44 comments Alexandra-- I was actually trying to comment on the speech to Yuri's aunt that he gives about the topic of social connectedness.
In the socio-cultural theory of development which emerged in Russia the 1920s or so, learning and meaning emerge through observable social interaction within a person's historical time and place. I think it relates to the materialist theory that was prominent in that era. :)


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