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Doctor Zhivago
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1001 Monthly Group Read > August {2010} Discussion -- DOCTOR ZHIVAGO by Boris Pasternak

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Anna (lilfox) | 291 comments The book is great....


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Jenna | 9 comments I am not reading this one. I read it in college and did not like it then. OF course, that's probably reason in and of itself to try again. After I read it I just felt that Pasternak was a poet, not a novelist, and I preferred his other works.


Maggie | 22 comments I read this quite a few years ago and thought it was really good. I love the film too - but the book is quite unlike the film.


Lauli | 263 comments Still reading. I must confess I find it hard to keep reading at times. Some passages are beautiful, but I get lost in the crowd of characters populating the book and sometimes can't remember who's who. But I like how vividly it depicts what the revolution meant to ordinary people and how it affected everyday life in Russia.


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Jenna | 9 comments @Lauli: Russian Novels are often hard to read because each character usually has a nickname, a formal name, and a last name. As someone with a degree in Russian Lit, I used to find it easier if I made a chart in the first few chapters that I could use as a reference.


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Cait Poytress (caitertot) | 34 comments I'm putting off reading this until October, when the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation is released. Doctor Zhivago


Lauli | 263 comments Jenna wrote: "@Lauli: Russian Novels are often hard to read because each character usually has a nickname, a formal name, and a last name. As someone with a degree in Russian Lit, I used to find it easier if I..."

Mm, that explains it. In my edition there is a list of characters at the beginning, including the surname, but some aren't even there if they are minor characters. Thanks for the heads up!


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Jenna | 9 comments They have a given name, the second name, which is a derivative from the father's first name (with a male or female ending, depending on whether the child is a man or a woman), and the last name is the family name. The given name may be shortened if the character a child, a lover, a good friend, or just a lot younger than the person speaking. So, in theory, the same person could have four or more names in the same novel, sometimes in the same chapter or even the same scene. Very confusing.


message 10: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike | 78 comments I thouroughly enjoyed this book. I read a review of Dr. Zhivago a while back. The jist of that review was that this novel is two love stories. One is the love story of Yurii and Lara. The other is the love story of Pasternak and Russia. I think that pretty much sums it up. Five stars for Doctor Zhivago!


message 11: by Beth (new)

Beth Cait wrote: "I'm putting off reading this until October, when the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation is released. Doctor Zhivago"

I was wondering about other translations. The edition I'm reading is an older one that I mooched, and the translators make a note at the beginning that they hope one day a better translation of the poems, in particular, will be available.

I'm only about 30 pages in and not really getting into it yet, but I'm going to keep at it.


message 12: by Judith (last edited Aug 19, 2010 07:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judith (jloucks) | 1203 comments I think that I learned more about how war impacted average people in "War and Peace" than in "Dr. Zhivago". Anyone care to compare the two in that regard?

It seems to me that Pasternak tells us more about the evils of the Red and White Armies, but Tolstoy has more tales of the poor Russian people caught up in the struggle.

Anyone care to comment on how Pasternak portrays Lara's early sexuality? Did it seem realistic to you? She seemed ambiguous....which seems normal, but with her mother's lover?


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Tej | 120 comments Judith wrote: "I think that I learned more about how the Russian Revolution impacted average people in "War and Peace" than in "Dr. Zhivago". Anyone care to compare the two in that regard?

It seems to me that P..."


I read Dr. Zhivago in my 20s and War and Peace in my 30s. (I'm now in my 40s!) My memory is just the opposite. I remember thinking that I learned more of the history in War and Peace but that I liked the characters so much better in Dr. Zhivago. I remember thinking that the wealthy family in War and Peace were so darn whiny; I just didn't care that they lost everything. On the other hand, I remember really enjoying the character of Yurii. (Also, if I remember right, War and Peace took place 100 years earlier, and the war was against Napoleon.)


Lauli | 263 comments Haven't read War and Peace, but it definitely takes place in the XIX century, since it was written in 1869.


Judith (jloucks) | 1203 comments Lauli wrote: "Haven't read War and Peace, but it definitely takes place in the XIX century, since it was written in 1869."

I've edited my post to correct the comparison. I meant to say "war", but had "revolution" in my brain. Sorry for the slip! I'm embarrassed!


Kirsten | 35 comments This is my first real exposure to Russian literature, and I must confess how much I enjoyed the book. I also gave it 5 stars in my review. I was confused at the beginning with the number of characters, but soon got into the writing and plot. It helped that I had seen the film a few years ago so vaguely remembered the plot. I also confess that I had to do some research into the Russian Revolution to understand some of the context.

I agree that it is two love stories, but I think that Pasternak's love of his country really wins the day. It was so apparent in his description of the countryside and the people. I found it really beautiful, even though I thought the conversation was sometimes forced and the plot a bit clunky. The writing definitely made up for those flaws and that was an English translation! The Russian must be even better - I really wish I could read it in the original language.


Lauli | 263 comments I've just finished, and I really loved the last 3 chapters. I think Pasternak's style is very lyrical, and there are passages of great beauty. I also enjoyed the poems as a side read, as I read them as they were mentioned in the novel, or at times when the title of a poem was suggestive of something that had happened.
I particularly liked Yuri as a character, his sensitivity to the world around him and his concern to put his thoughts and feelings into words.


message 18: by Teal (new) - rated it 3 stars

Teal (tealismyname) What I love about Pasternak is his clear poetic background! Each line seems to settle into its poetic lyricism. I also really like how he writes in short segments that make up a larger chapter.

Right now i'm only about 40 pages in so i have a bunch to go but i'm really excited to see how this book develops stylistically. Will he maintain the poetic tone?

I have only read Chekov's short stories, but I love Pasternak's digressions into larger philosophical topics while maintaing the plot and beautiful sentences.

CLEARLY i'm really digging this book!


Cindy (newtomato) | 196 comments Besides the love story and the Russian love, there's another theme in Doctor Zhivago that really struck me: the interrelatedness of people and events. There's a quote in the conclusion that sums it up nicely, from Yurii Andreievich:

"He tried to imagine several people whose lives run parallel and close together but move at different speeds, and he wondered in what circumstances some of them would overtake and survive others. Something like a theory of relativity governing the hippodrome of life occurred to him, but he became confused and gave up his analogies."


Deanne | 682 comments Lauli and Judith
War and peace was written in 1869 but it was set in 1805-1812, for Napoleon the whole Russian invasion was a disaster. The Russians retreated into Russia burning crops and killing or taking livestock and the Napoleonic troops followed them until they realised that winter was coming and they had no food. Recently in Russia they found a mass grave of Napoleonic soldiers who had died of starvation and disease.
Dr Zhivago deals more with the effects of revolution where it all depends on which faction you are percieved to belong to.
The film Dr Zhivago was good but seemed to deal mainly with Zhivago's and Lara's love affair. Dr Zhivago as a book is so much more than a love story between the two characters it also shows in the way it was written how much Pasternak loved Russia.


Lauli | 263 comments Deanne, what you say is very interesting, and I think it has to do with the feeling of confusion many of the characters seem to experience. During a revolution power is shifting all the time, and people need to be careful not to be tagged as belonging to one group or another. This reminded me of some novels I've read set in Latin American countries at time of revolution, where the same thing happened.


Richard | 7 comments My first post on what seems an excellent forum!
I've just finished reading Dr Zhivago, and found the book quite interesting.
For me, I particularly enjoyed seeing how the fate of the characters are bound into the wars and revolutions that they found themselves involved in.
I haven't seen the film, but would consider it next time it comes on the telly.


message 23: by Anna (new) - rated it 4 stars

Anna (lilfox) | 291 comments That version with Omar Shariff and Geraldine Chaplin. Don't watch the one with Keira Knightley.


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Jane (JaneLitChic) | 2 comments Only picked this up over the weekend so I'm a little behind in starting. Even though it was a forced read for me during high school, I didn't manage to get past the first few chapters. At the time I couldn't get my head around all the differnt characters and names.

I am hoping that I will find it more enjoyable on the second try, especially since the movie is one of my favourites.


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Denise Krochta | 1 comments When I was a kid I read this book. I don't know if was my age, the turmoil in my life at the time, or just "because", but I read it twice, saw the movie, then began my study of the Russian language and everything Russian. I had already been studying French. As we know, the Russian aristocracy used the French language a lot. It was, I guess exotic and sophisticated. Anyway, I eventually got a degree in foreign languages, (French and Russian the major ones) and embarked on a career in International business which has defined much of my character and wonder. I visited Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in 1970 as a young teen and again just recently. Reading some of the classics in Russian and even in French is really an "experience". I'm glad that this great book was on the list.


Melissa I'm mixed in my feelings on this book. I've read "W&P" and "Anna K," and while I can't remember much about them specifically, I remember being much more moved at the end than I am with Dr. Z.

Pasternak's writing is great, but I know my lack of Russian history kept me from appreciating all the innuendos of the war. And I think it was more of a war story than a love story. Most of the characters, I didn't care for. Yurii does not stay true to Lara, not to mention the other two women in his life. Antipov loved country and self more than Lara. Yet Yurii truly loved Russia.

I also found it amazing that it took 30+ years for this book to be published in Russia.


message 27: by Teal (new) - rated it 3 stars

Teal (tealismyname) Hmmm about 30% into this and I'm kind of losing steam. Maybe it's my translation, but I just don't feel the connection between the characters. Specifically the conversation between Lara and Yuri while in the pantry seemed stunted and forced.

I also think I'm a little lost historically because I'm not that informed on Russian history. Therefore, the lack of dates makes me question the time span and such.

I do love his random quips of poetry especially when he describes the country side.


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Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments about 20% through it, and i'm having a love/annoyance with the meandering. it's funny how while i'm reading it, it doesn't make a lot of sense, with a description of some snow or fields, then one sentence about some kids, then off to a train... but if i try to explain it later, well, then, a whole plot emerges from somewhere.

bookmarking the cast of characters in the front has been immensely helpful, as was the heads-up early in the discussion about everyone having 4+ names. if i hadn't had that info, the cast would have been useless, since it seems to be only a dozen people or so.

Judith, i was likewise a bit thrown over lara's affair with her mother's lover. clearly, she was indeed torn up about it, since she abruptly moved out of the house to escape him, but while it's happening, yes it's rather ambiguous. i never could quite tell if he was a vile older man ruthlessly seducing an innocent, or if it was more give-and-take? perhaps the issue is that the relationship shifted over time, like in real life, so there's no pat and easy villain?

Anna, have you seen both versions of the movie? why the older (other than Alec Guinness RULES) and not the tv miniseries?


message 29: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Smith | 14 comments Kirsten wrote: "This is my first real exposure to Russian literature, and I must confess how much I enjoyed the book. I also gave it 5 stars in my review. I was confused at the beginning with the number of charact..."

I completely agree with your assessment of Dr. Zhivago. I really found it a slow beginning, but I think it was trying to into the rhythm of his writing more than anything else - and trying to keep the characters apart too! I really felt like the wild swings in time and place and people seemed to correspond to the probable chaos of the times. It was definitely a book to read all at once to really get that feeling mind you. I also felt somehow that the women in his life were also a comparison to how he saw his Russia. There was a definite parallel between the women and the country.


Florence Buchanan | 3 comments I'm almost half finished with the novel. I'm enjoying the philosophy and history; however, keeping up with the numerous characters is a challenge.


Melissa Sue- your comment helped me like the book better. If I compare the women to Russia, they really do reflect the "personality" of the country. Tonia would be the "old" Russia, Lara would be the romantic of the revolution, and Marina the able-bodied, no-nonsense new Russia.

So while I previously just thought Yurii as an unloyal man, if the women are his Russia, he is actually very loyal, in that he loves "her" through all her stages.

Thank you!


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Jenna | 9 comments Sue and Melissa: It's really interesting how a lot of Russian authors equate their female characters with "Mother Russia." I hadn't thought of the connection with Dr. Z before. Perhaps I need to peruse it again.


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Jane (JaneLitChic) | 2 comments Jenna wrote: "Sue and Melissa: It's really interesting how a lot of Russian authors equate their female characters with "Mother Russia." I hadn't thought of the connection with Dr. Z before. Perhaps I need to..."

I hadn't picked up this connection either... It's an interesting point which I will bear it in mind as I continue through the book. 
At the moment I only get to read little chunks at a time as we are currently moving house. It can be challenging keeping track of who's who, but think it would be easier if I was reading this all in one go. 


message 34: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Smith | 14 comments Melissa!! Exactly!! You put it perfectly - I was having trouble expressing it but you've got it bang on!


message 35: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin I just finished. I was a tad confused while reading for several reasons: 1) I know next to nothing about Russia; 2) I'm not interested in politics or revolutions; 3) I thought this was a love story about Dr Z and Lara. SO it kind of threw me through a loop as I was reading - I just kept waiting for him and Lara. It's so much more than that! I don't know why people always described this book to me as a great romance and then talk about Dr Z and Lara.
There's so much in this book. It took me awhile to understand what was going on - the depth that Pasternak reaches, the philosophy and poetry, all of the relationships and interconnectedness...it was really quite something. I wish I had been better prepared for what I was reading!
Thank you, Sue and Melissa, for the great insight into Dr Z's women and how they reflect Russia. I hadn't thought of it that was and was really upset that he was untrue - but it makes so much more sense to see them as Russia and how he loved them/Russia during his lifetime.
Very glad I read this.


Kirsten | 35 comments Melissa - I really like your analysis. Great comment!


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Rachel Hajar (mylifeindoha) I read Dr. Zhivago a long time ago, in college. It is a multidimensional book - love, war, how war alters the lives of people and relationships; then there is the social and political aspect of the book . . . Although I liked the book, I don't think I'll be reading it again as there are so many other books to still read! The movie version was great, too. I've always admired the Russian writers.


message 38: by Teal (new) - rated it 3 stars

Teal (tealismyname) Melissa- I think that this was really how Pasternak wanted to depict the women. Or at least he constantly hints to it. When Zhivago finally returns to Lara, he equates her to Russia. (I need to find this quote) Anyways, I haven't finished so I don't know about Marina but I'll definitely pay attention to this.


Also, for anyone who comes one here...

What do you think is the importance of snow, change of seasons and overall setting? It plays such a large role in Pasternak's description I was wondering what you guys thought about it!


Karina | 362 comments I finished this novel a couple of days ago. Unfortunately with school, I cannot finish the books as I would like, however that being said:

I really enjoyed Pasternak's writing. Someone had mentioned earlier that his writing was lyrical, and indeed it was. I have not read War and Peace, however I will at some point. I love Russian History and have read a few books about the Russian Revolution and I loved reading this novel. This novel gave an awesome view point of the persecuted class, even though Zhivago wasn't even a rich man. Pasternak really gave readers a view of the Revolution that we don't normally get to see.

The Revolution was about the uprising of the peasants who were suffering under the Tsars. However, we see that even with the revolution, everyone still suffered, perhaps more so than before.

This is the first Russian novel I have read from beginning to end and I can't wait to read some more!


Amanda (snugshelf) | 7 comments I'm only about 30 % into this, but I've stayed confused throughout the book.. Just when I think I've got the character names down, someone gives them a new nickname, or another character comes in, or a character who's been gone for a while comes back. I'm 16, so this novel is probably a bit over my head right now, especially since I know virtually nothing about the Russian Revolution, but I'm stubborn, so I will finish it. And I'm going to check out a book on the Russian Revolution now too, so maybe that will help :)


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Tej | 120 comments You go, Amanda! I read Crime and Punishment when I was 17 and probably understood a third of it! Fortunately for you, there is the Internet for you to do quick research to get a brief background on topics you're struggling with.

As someone who's now 43, I almost envy you all of the books and learning you have ahead of you! Don't ever shy away from challenging yourself. :)


Amanda (snugshelf) | 7 comments Thanks! I definitely won't. :) I've loved reading since I learned how, which I probably owe to my sister. When I was little she used to make fun of me, something along the lines of "I can read and you can't ha ha ha ha hahh!" It made me mad. And determined. :)
I haven't been confused in the last few segments, so I think I'm making progress.


message 43: by Ben (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ben (hell_ben_t) | 12 comments Thoroughly enjoyed this, although can't help but wonder how much better the experience would be to read in the original Russian text.

In my view, the final two thirds (from the flight to Varykino onwards) were an improvement on the first part of the book - it was at that point that I started to get engrossed in the plight of the central characters, and Pasternak's prose took on a richer quality.

Something that I can't see has generated much discussion above, but that interested me was the novel's treatment of religion. Clearly, the role of religion in Russian life underwent huge changes as a result of the dogmatic ideology being forced upon the nation during the revolution. Zhivago's views seem to sit a little apart from those of either the peasants or the revolutionaries, however - more interested in the philosophy of religion than it's more didactic qualities.

I wonder if anyone can shed more light on this aspect of the book?


message 44: by Seth (new)

Seth (SethJJ) | 4 comments Amanda wrote: "I'm only about 30 % into this, but I've stayed confused throughout the book.. Just when I think I've got the character names down, someone gives them a new nickname, or another character comes in, ..."

Amanda; I think your determination is great, keep it up & way to go!

Seth


Amanda (snugshelf) | 7 comments Seth wrote: "Amanda wrote: "I'm only about 30 % into this, but I've stayed confused throughout the book.. Just when I think I've got the character names down, someone gives them a new nickname, or another chara..."

Aw, thanks! :) I'm almost finished, but my checkout time ran out, so I'll have to get it out again from the library. It's much easier to follow when the book just focuses on Zhivago and his family. I really enjoyed those parts.


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Kirsten  (kmcripn) Doctor Zhivago: new TV adaptation from Vikings creator in the works
http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/tv/michae...


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