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105 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "That one might read the book of fate
And see the revolution of the times
Make mountains level, and the continent,
Weary of solid firmness,--melt itself Into the sea! "
King Henry IV, Part 2, Act III. Scene I

Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago takes us back to a time when fate took Russia through a perfect storm of revolution, war, revolution, and civil war. This was a time that did not...
Published on December 23, 2010 by Leonard Fleisig

versus
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Goodbye to the Old World
I hate to say it but the Pevear/Volokhonsky edition rings hollow. They seem much better when sticking with 19th century classics like Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov. It may be, as Pevear writes in his forward, that they stuck closer to the original text, but the result is a clunky translation that at times reads like it was done with google. The writing is...
Published on January 2, 2011 by James Ferguson


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105 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "That one might read the book of fate, December 23, 2010
By 
This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (Hardcover)
And see the revolution of the times
Make mountains level, and the continent,
Weary of solid firmness,--melt itself Into the sea! "
King Henry IV, Part 2, Act III. Scene I

Boris Pasternak's Dr. Zhivago takes us back to a time when fate took Russia through a perfect storm of revolution, war, revolution, and civil war. This was a time that did not just level mountains and melt a continent but also melted and cruelly leveled the lives and fates of untold numbers who were caught in these turbulent waters. Josef Stalin is reported to have said that "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is just a statistic." What Pasternak has done so masterfully in telling this story is to paint a picture on a huge canvas that stretches from Moscow to Siberia while at the same time telling an intimate story that allows the reader to maintain that feeling of tragedy.

I've had a copy of Dr. Zhivago sitting on my shelf for decades, one of the books I inherited from my father's collection. I never bothered to pick it up. I'd seen David Lean's classic film and wrongfully decided that there was no need to invest any time in reading an epic novel about the tragic romance of Yuri Andreevich Zhivago and Larissa Fyodorovna Antipova. When I saw that Pevear and Volokhonsky had done a new translation I decided to give Zhivago a shot. What a revelation. As good as the movie was it didn't begin to plumb the depths of the book. The movie focused, understandably enough, on the relationship between Yuri and Lara and it seemed that the Russian Revolution and Civil War was merely the back-story to the relationship. But in Pasternak's hands I think it was close to being the other way around. The first two-thirds of the book takes two separate lives that contain just a few incidental touch-points where those lives intersected.

The emotional heart of the story for me was elsewhere. It was a story of the dissolution of Russian life in the years between the 1905 Revolution and WWI where the decadence and debauchery of a life lived in fancy clothes and salons played out against the turmoil bubbling beneath the surface. It was a story of the disruption and destitution set in motion by WWI and the October revolution. It was a story of the story of hunger and desperation brought on by a vicious Civil War in which the phrase "man is wolf to man" comes to the fore and the fragile web that keeps a society civilized is swept away in a sea of inhumanity. It is into a world that has already been rent asunder that the relationship of Yuri and Lara comes into bloom. The story of Yuri and Lara almost seemed to me to be the back story, the context that illuminated the age of unreason that Pasternak wrote about.

One passage set this out for me in stark terms: "This was the sickness of the age, the revolutionary madness of the epoch. In thought everyone was different from his words and outward show. No one had a clear conscience. Each with good reason could feel himself guilty, a secret criminal, an unexposed deceiver." The passage concludes that people denounced themselves, "drawn on by a destructively morbid inclination, of their own free will, in a state of metaphysical trance and passion for self-condemnation that, once set loose, could not be stopped." This struck me immediately as Pasternak's version of Yeats' "Second Coming" where the centre cannot hold and where "the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. It was one of the many touch-points in the book that were immensely moving to me.

The Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko has said, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that a "translation is like a woman. If it is beautiful, it is not faithful. If it is faithful, it is most certainly not beautiful." My high-school level Russian does not permit me to speak to this translation's faithfulness but I can certainly attest to its beauty. Pasternak's prose, as rendered by the team of Pevear and Volokhonsky, flows beautifully. As I read through the book I did not feel I was reading a translation. Any time I read a piece in translation and feel compelled to underline or highlight particularly noteworthy passage I think of the translation as one that does justice to the book. Time after time I found myself highlighting passages that I wanted to remember. This strikes me as being my own testimony not just to the beauty of the translation but what also must be its faithfulness.

Dr. Zhivago is not, as I imagined, a eulogy for a pair of tragic Russian lovers but an elegy for an age in a specific time and place. It is a beautiful, moving story that was a pleasure to read.

L. Fleisig
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76 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new translation brings new life to one of the 20th century's great literary events., October 20, 2010
By 
Sean Curley (Charlottetown, PE, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (Hardcover)
Boris Pasternak's most famous novel, and the source for one of the biggest (both in box office and scope) films in cinematic history, arrives in stores once again, translated for the 21st century. As already noted by the product description, "Doctor Zhivago" was an international sensation on its initial publication in 1957 - smuggled out of the Soviet Union and published first in Italy due to the censorship of the Communist government, it was rapidly translated into English (and other languages). Max Hayward's work was of good quality, particularly given the time constraints under which he laboured - good enough to make the novel a bestseller and probably the most famous work of Russian literature published in the 20th century. It earned its author the Nobel Prize in Literature, though political considerations interfered even then to block his acceptance.

Nevertheless, the theory and practice of translation has evolved considerably in the last half-century (and probably will continue to); works are continually retranslated, sometimes with minor variations in style, sometimes with bigger ones. Now comes the turn of "Doctor Zhivago". And as any fan of Russian literature could tell you, there could be no better team on hand to handle it than Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. This husband-and-wife team has become the gold standard in Russian-to-English translation over the last quarter century, having produced a truly astonishing volume of work: the major works of Dostoevsky, Count Tolstoy, Bulgakov, Gogol, and Chekhov (Pevear has also translated Dumas' "The Three Musketeers" from French by himself, I guess for a change of pace). Now they've turned their hand to Pasternak's magnum opus. The resulting translation is up to their usual standards.

One won't get too far into story summary, given how famous this is, but in brief it is a semi-autobiographical account by the author of the tumultuous history of Russia in the early 20th century. Beginning with the fall of the Tsarist despotism, the brief and doomed interlude of attempted democracy under Kerensky, and the assumption of power by the Bolsheviks, with ensuing civil war, we follow Dr. Yuri Zhivago. Something of an idealist, like Pasternak (or Pasternak's self image, anywyay), Zhivago struggles with his love for Lara, and the conflict it creates with his family. That's the part everybody remembers, anyway, almost invariably. David Lean's famous film, as big as it was, could only tell a condensed version of Pasternak's story, which is larger still on the page; but that is true with all the great novels. Pasternak weaves an epic account of one of the greatest political earthquakes in history, which claimed millions of lives, and is comparatively little-remembered in the contemporary West.

Recommended. And one hopes that Pevear and Volokhonsky can make time for Sholokhov.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic translation of a challenging novel, November 24, 2010
By 
This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (Hardcover)
This epic love story between Dr. Yuri Zhivago and nurse Lara, set against the backdrop of Russian revolution and civil war, earned Pasternak the Nobel Prize. This semi-autobiographical work chronicles the deplorable conditions during the struggle for control of the country that culminated in the arrival of Soviet power. The novel seeks to explore the ultimate questions of human existence--the nature of man, the existence of God, the problem of evil, the meaning of life, and the riddle of death.

Yuri struggles between his devotion to Tonya, his wife and childhood friend, and Lara, the nurse he met in a war-time hospital and the woman with which his passions lie. Yuri is constantly torn between what his heart wants and what he knows is right for those he loves. He seeks to turn the tragedy in his life to poetry. As Yuri says of art, "it constantly reflects on death and thereby constantly creates life."

Having read and loved Pevear and Volokhonsky's translations of War and Peace (Vintage Classics) and The Idiot, I knew I wanted their translation of this Russian masterpiece. This one was more of a challenge. At first, all the imagery provided by masterful descriptions of landscapes brought the book to life. After a while, however, the descriptions of trees, hills, rivers, fog, snow, rain, birds, etc became rather redundant and began to really slow the story. The sentence structure also forced me to re-read many sentences to fully grasp their intent. But this should not discourage potential readers from this version. Pevear and Volokhonsky take extreme effort to capture the original author's style and give English readers a chance to truly experience the work in its originality as much as possible.

It is a beautiful story of love, loss, and one's devotion to principles at all costs. Among the many memorable scenes is Yuri Zhivago's consoling words to the dying Anna Ivanovna, something that one cannot soon forget. This book is absolutely worth the effort.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Goodbye to the Old World, January 2, 2011
By 
James Ferguson (Vilnius, Lithuania) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (Hardcover)
I hate to say it but the Pevear/Volokhonsky edition rings hollow. They seem much better when sticking with 19th century classics like Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov. It may be, as Pevear writes in his forward, that they stuck closer to the original text, but the result is a clunky translation that at times reads like it was done with google. The writing is flat the sentence structure is awkward making any first time reader wonder what is so great about this book. I found myself going back to the original Hawyard/Harari translation which has a much nicer flow.

The story itself is odd in the way it is laid out by Pasternak. It seemed he was aiming at something far greater than a romance, or that his love was with Russia itself. The actual story of Yury and Lara comprises less than 4 chapters. The bulk of the narrative is about Yury trying to make sense of the tumultuous revolution taking place in his homeland, from the early years of the 1905 strikes to the eventual victory by the Red Army in the civil war that stretched to 1922. These chapters are the most visceral, as Pasternak places Yury on the battle front, tending to the wounded, growing more and more cynical with the great many casualties he has to attend to. He finishes the story off with an epilogue as told by his long-time friend Misha, and a strange epitaph in the poems Zhivago had penned during the course of the narrative.

While Pasternak pretty much keeps to an historic timeline, his thoughts are more impressionistic, especially in the way he relates the battles in the provinces as the country becomes split by the White and Red Armies. Yury can't bring himself to choose between the opposing forces, and this very much underscores his relationships with Tonya, his wife, and Lara, his lover. The first seeming to represent tradition, albeit not without its allusions to the modern writers of the day, and the second a democratic love in which he idealizes Lara as the perfect modern woman, above all the petty conceits of the bourgeoisie, yet not deluded by the false promises of the Bolsheviks.

I suppose some readers will have difficulties with all the tangents this story takes, especially if you were thinking that the great love story between Yury and Lara would dominate the narrative. Actually, it is a very awkward love story as Pasternak never really allows his two characters to grow together. They come together because of circumstances and their love is never fully realized. I had to wonder if Pasternak was uncomfortable with the romance he created, as he seemed much more at home describing Yury's and Tonya's plight first in Moscow and then at Varykino. His best writing was that of the military camps Zhivago found himself in.

Overall, I give the book 4 stars and this translation 3 stars. The book was made into a fantastic mini-series by Aleksandr Proshkin in 2006 that takes in the full scope of the novel, whereas Sir David Lean focused primarily on Yury and Lara. Don't even bother with the 2002 British mini-series.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Novel of 20th Century Russia, September 22, 2011
By 
CJA "CJA" (Minneapolis, MN) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Doctor Zhivago is a great novel. I am a fan of David Lean's very good movie version, but the book is much better. The movie stresses the love triangle between Zhivago, his wife, and Lara -- but this really is only one aspect of the book. The book is not so much a love story as it is an exploration of how modernity alienates man from life. Lara is representative of seizing live -- of living and enjoying life in the present in some kind of harmony with nature and with a surrounding culture. But in modern life, notes Zhivago, men are only preparing to live, not actually living life. He is brilliantly critical of the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary zealots who delude themselves by living for abstractions.

Like Tolstoy, Pasternak writes memorably of both war and peace. The war scenes, and Zhivago's participation in and alienation from battle, are brilliantly done. The landscape of Russia is also important to Pasternak, and he manages to capture the vast sweep and beauty of the land.

Pasternak does not romanticize Czarist Russia. He has great sympathy for the progressive goals of the revolution. But in the society that replaces the empire, men live in fear and do not speak out loud what they actually think internally. And it is the cynical operator (taking the form of Komarovsky, the cynical lawyer who seduces Lara at a young age and who prospers both before and after the revolution) who thrives in the new society.

The great foil for Zhivago is Strelnikov, Lara's husband who goes to war and then becomes a great and ruthless military leader for the Reds against the Whites. He is a far more important character in the book than he is in the movie. Strelnikov applies himself in a way that Zhivago, a dreamer, never does. He is a great man who is able to master academic subjects while being a man of action and a leader of men. But he comes around to Zhivago's point of view that he has deluded himself with the abstractions of the revolution and has caused great suffering while himself missing out on living life. There is a great confrontation and reconciliation between the two that should have been in the movie.

In the end, however, Dr. Zhivago gives up Lara, to save her life and her daughter's life, but in the process he gives up his own principles. Maybe some of the hardness of Strelnikov is necessary, and Zhivago himself is a very flawed hero as shown by his collapse in the years after parting from Lara.

Pasternak's book was banned by the Soviet regime for good reason: his crticism of the revolution and the evil and wrong-headedness of orthodox Bolsheviks is devastating. In many ways Pasternak is a far more effective critic of the Soviet regime than is Solzhenitsyn, because Pasternak is able to communicate and connect with the reader on a deep emotional level.

The epilogue of the book includes a set of poems that the fictional Zhivago supposedly wrote during the brief days of paradise when he lives with Lara at his old family home and is able to seize life in the midst of the chaos and evil of the revolutionary era. Even in translation, the poems are terrific. And they manage to re-tell in a few short poems what Pasternak has done in prose over the course of the previous several hundred pages of prose. This is a remarkable achievement. The poems are not really love poems, as portrayed in the movie. They are poems about seizing life.

If you are a fan of the movie, don't think that reading the book is unnecessary. While on some levels the movie is quite faithful to the plot twists of the novel, the novel is far richer and far better. This is the great novel of 20th Century Russia and is a must-read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic Prose, February 25, 2011
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This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (Hardcover)
Translating DOCTOR ZHIVAGO was clearly a labor of love for Pevear & Volokhonsky, or so it seemed to me after reading their translation of WAR & PEACE just before this. The Tolstoy was serviceable, but the Pasternak is magnificent. I cannot speak for the poetry in the final chapter because verse and translation will forever be at odds no matter who shepherds them across the treacherous landscapes of language. The prose, though, is another story. Here is a typical paragraph showing both Pasternak's style and his translators' facility in capturing it:

"A clear, frosty night. Extraordinary brightness and wholeness of the visible. Earth, air, moon, stars, fettered together, riveted by frost. In the park, the distinct shadows of trees lie across the alleys, seeming carved in relief. It seems all the time as if some dark figures are ceaselessly crossing the path in various places. Big stars like blue mica lamps hang in the forest among the branches. Th whole sky is strewn with little stars like a summer meadow with chamomile.'

It's the type of writing you stop to reread because the description seems too careful to simply rush by as you do in a typical reading. Of course, some readers may ask, what of the plot? Rest assured ZHIVAGO is strong not only in description, but in characterization and plot as well. Like Tolstoy, only moved from the Napoleonic Wars to the Russian Revolution and thereafter, this story shows ordinary people taking extraordinary measures to survive in the maelstrom of history. A Renaissance man, the doctor/poet and the love of his life, his mistress Larissa Fyodorovna (Lara) are the key players here, and the reader soon feels like a confederate wishing against all possibility, given the early days of the Bolshevik regime, for "happily ever afters" that will not and cannot come. Instead, we get "brief, shining moments" in various domestic scenes, balanced by horrific moments in war scenes (Zhivago is kidnapped into service at a crucial juncture in the book).

When it is over, you'll remember it as one of the great books you've read -- IF you're a poetic soul yourself. If not, you still will find it worthwhile. Like many classics, old and new, it's a slow starter but rewards the patient. And if you read it, make this the translation. Pevear and Volokhonsky have finally done Pasternak justice.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Best Translation – The one by Max Hayward and Manya Harari (1958), May 11, 2014
By 
donddv "star review" (Miami, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
This “translation” by Pevear and Volokhonsky (copyright 2010) published by Pantheon Books (a division of Random House, Inc.) was such a clunker when I read it that I was motivated to reread the original 1958 classic translation by Max Hayward and Manya Harari, which was also published by Pantheon Books (1958, copyright renewed 1986).

Stick to the Hayward and Harari version (Everyman’s Library, Amazon). You’ll get a better flow and feel for the story in a style that is closest to Pasternak’s prose-poetry.

In the Pevear version, one of their “translation techniques” was simply to change the arrangement of the clauses of a sentence from the Hayward version; or they pulled out a thesaurus and chose a synonym or colloquialism for a word or words used by Hayward.

Following is the first paragraph from each translation from Part One, Chapter One, Section 1 (each one of these comparisons can be found in the Amazon editions via “Look Inside”):
1. The Pevear version:
They walked and walked and sang “Memory Eternal,” and whenever they stopped, the singing seemed to be carried on by their feet, the horses, the gusts of wind.
2. The Hayward version:
On they went, singing “Rest Eternal,” and whenever they stopped, their feet, the horses, and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.

Another comparison of three paragraphs from Part One, Chapter One, Section 5 follows:
1. The Pevear version:
“The vital nerve of the problem of pauperism,” Nikolai Nikolaevich read from the corrected manuscript.
“I think it would be better to say ‘essence,’” Ivan Ivanovich said, and introduced the required correction into the proofs.
They were working in the semidarkness of the glassed-in terrace. The eye could make out watering cans and gardening tools lying around in disorder. A raincoat was thrown over the back of a broken chair. In a corner stood rubber hip boots with dry mud stuck to them, their tops hanging down to the floor.
2. The Hayward version:
“The vital nerve of the problem of pauperism,” Nikolai Nikolaievich read from the revised manuscript.
“Essence would be better, I think,” said Ivan Ivanovich, making the correction on the galleys.
They were working in the half-darkness of the glassed-in veranda. Watering cans and gardening tools lay about, a raincoat was flung over the back of a broken chair, mud-caked hip boots stood in a corner, their uppers collapsed on the floor.

In sum, the Pevear/Volokhonsky version reads like it was done with a thesaurus in one hand and the Hayward/Harari version in the other—a calculated attempt by the publisher to sell more books with a repackage/update of a classic that shoots itself in the foot instead.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not the best translation, February 11, 2011
After having read the Max Hayward and Manya Harari translation of Dr Zhivago in a Russian Literature class, the book became my favorite. The language of the book was pure poetry. This translation, however, does not even come close to the Hayward and Harari translation. It is very awkward at times and takes away some of the poetic beauty of the novel. Sadly, the Hawyard and Harari version is not available on Kindle, so I would suggest either getting the paperback or asking Amazon to make it available in electronic form.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life changing book, January 18, 2012
This is the only version of DZ I have read. I'm glad I waited. This depiction of life inside Russia during WWI and its ensuing revolutions is mind boggling. The scene descriptions are unparalleled in literature, I imagine. Translation must have been a work of genius to get it to this level of sweetness. The walk through the thoughts of Yuri, Lara and the host of characters from their pre-revolution childhoods through the rigors of war, competing socialist armies, hijacking of persons and property, and back to civilian life under a bleak failed state where you cannot even gather firewood from your "former" property, without a permit, on penalty of death, is an in-depth philosophical ride, especially for those of us who lived through the Cold War. The characters wrestle with the difficulties that arise from trying to exercise the public duty to become a society that rights obvious wrongs with the pain of living in a world where pitilessness evolves from State sponsored pity. Pasternak's message is that life is too wildly random and beautiful to be completely righted by the State. Most vigorous attempts to do so result in more wrongs. Zhivago, in trying to fight off his fatal attraction to Lara, discovers that she is an enigma representing all things beautiful in Russia - the need to pity the poor peasant and the need to live freely and lovingly, a stark internal conflict arises. We know how this turned out for Russia. Pasternak did not, but perhaps he had a hand in the outcome by risking arrest when he handed his manuscript to an Italian publisher's agent outside his cottage. The novel was published in Italy while Russia banned it. I loved the footnotes which made this a lesson in Russian history and culture as well as a beautiful story. See the book by the "real" Lara, Olga Ivinskaya, "Captive of Time". She and her daughter Irina spent time in the Gulag for assisting Pasternak. C Ludtke
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cryptic, moving, masterpiece -- beautifully restored, January 27, 2011
By 
Birdman (Minnetonka, MN USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Doctor Zhivago (Hardcover)
It would be difficult for anyone to claim that his love of this formidable book had no relationship to Lean's film, an abbreviation of an often bewildering but heroic text. Pasternak told a masterful story, stymied at times by his drive to polemics, jolted by his awkward time-shifts, forced to speed because of the realities of his personal history.

DOCTOR ZHIVAGO inspires us because of its characterizations, its emphasis on the awesome power of coincidence in human affairs, and the constricted agony of its narrator. It moves us because it portrays a decent, balanced human being, sailing square, from whom history demands a position, a side, an allegiance. This -- Yuri Zhivago is ever reluctant to give, and so he speaks to us of the freedom, joy and resistance that is his love for Lara.

In his conventional world, one took sides. One immigrated, emigrated because of official orders. One renounced one's beliefs because to refuse would portend certain death. One eschewed love because of its political consequences, and feared death more often than humans ever imagined.

This is, in other words, one of the saddest, most poign.ant novels ever written, by an author with profound artistic and narrative potential, who wrote in a staccato rhythm At times, Zhivago -- like Billy Pilgrim -- becomes unstuck in time, and the author is often sidetracked by his political musings and polemics.

Still, the magisterial team of Richard Pevear, and Larissa Volokhonsky -- found Pasternak's true voice. While my heritage is Russian "on both sides," I've mastered only a handful of Russian paragraphs and phrases. Yet, when I read the first, brave Hayward translation, I always felt one step removed -- not from the narrative - but from the voice of a narrator so entrenched in his characters and topics that he couldn't have possibly written in such a nip-and-tuck, Western manner.

So, the present translation team offer us a Pasternak who is perhaps more skilled at poetry than prose, and yet -- warts and all -- manages to pull off a narrative of epic proportions. It has, and it will, inspire generations of readers who aspire to free will and the primacy of the individual. In the original translation, Pasternak's characters were more silhouettes than flesh-and-blood humans. In the present translation -- as much as the original text allows -- the characters come alive with an immediacy I'd never imagined.

In this light, one notes the rendering of Pasha - later Strelnikov here - in a series of vignettes which Robert Bolt dropped from the his script. These few pages are a revelation of character and only one of many reasons to read this version. Like Julie Rose's masterful translation of Les Misérables, issued four years ago, the translators literally recreate a version of Pasternak's novel that was meant to be.

Does it contain odd, or even meaningless phrases? Yes. Does the author consistently drift about on tangents? Without question. Do his portrayals of Zhivago, Tonya, Gordon, Strelnikov, Lara and Komarovsky result in more questions than answers? Absolutely.

But maybe that's exactly what was meant to be. Five stars for the book and its translators; another and five stars for the book's design. For what it's worth, the dust jacket is irresistible and conveys some of what awaits the reader within.

Buy it.
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Doctor Zhivago
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (Hardcover - October 19, 2010)
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