Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Life and work
In the West, Pasternak is best known for his monumental tragic novel on Soviet Russia, Doctor Zhivago, first published in Italy in 1957. It is as a poet, however, that he is most celebrated in Russia. He is one of a quartet of leading poets who emerged in the years of Stalin's reign, the others being Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva and Osip Mandelstam.
The son of a Jewish professor at the Moscow School of Painting , and a mother who was a famous concert pianist, Pasternak was brought up in a cosmopolitan atmosphere. He studied philosophy at the University of Marburg in Germany, with Hermann Cohen and Nicolai Hartmann, but although invited to become a scholar, decided against philosophy as a profession. He returned to Moscow in 1914 and published his first collection of poetry in that year.
The revolution of 1917 led to Pasternak quickly garnering fame as a poet.
He fell out of favour with the Soviet authorities in the 1930s; accused of subjectivism, he somehow managed to escape the gulags. He made a living as a translator of classics, which included Georgian works that Stalin himself liked. This led to a story that Stalin crossed Pasternak's name off of an arrest list during the purges, quoted as saying "Don't touch this cloud dweller".
Boris Pasternak was filled with a love of life that gave him hope through the dark years of communist Russia and gave his poetry a hopeful tone. Pasternak’s love of life is the principal idea in all of his works.
The publication of Doctor Zhivago, with its harsh criticism of the communist regime led to his persecution within the Soviet Union up until his death. Doctor Zhivago was eventually published in the USSR in 1987.
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