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Best Books of the Year So Far
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for 2015's Best Books of the Year So Far in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Novel by Boris Pasternak, published in Italy in 1957. This epic tale about the effects of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath on a bourgeois family was not published in the Soviet Union until 1987. One of the results of its publication in the West was Pasternak's complete rejection by Soviet authorities; when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 he was compelled to decline it. The book quickly became an international best-seller. Dr. Yury Zhivago, Pasternak's alter ego, is a poet, philosopher, and physician whose life is disrupted by the war and by his love for Lara, the wife of a revolutionary. His artistic nature makes him vulnerable to the brutality and harshness of the Bolsheviks; wandering throughout Russia, he is unable to take control of his fate, and dies in utter poverty. The poems he leaves behind constitute some of the most beautiful writing in the novel. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Text: English (translation) Original Language: Russian
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak is quite remarkably a poet's novel: the writer was a poet, and hence each page is full of beautiful imagery, metaphors and word play. The protagonist is a poet, the novel revolves around his love and life in the first half of twentieth century Russia. The reader, by association, has to be a poet to really relish the saga.
It is one of those novels from last century that everyone must read. The ghosts of socialism and Marxism, the excesses that occured in name of revolution, the transformation of the largest country of the world from ceturies old system into a failed ideal: the novel has enough historical significance. Last century was guided, molded, scarred, decorated and defined by the events and ideas that crop up as part of Doctor Zhivago's life. The literary underpinnings are gigantic: a love story with the Russian Revolution as background score: a Nobel was the least he could have got.
Besides the historical perspective, the story itself is a delightful one. The homely Tonya, Dr Zhivago's wife and first love and mother of his children, the sensuous Lara who weaves into and out of Yuri (Dr Zhivago's) life, her husband Pasha Antipov, who at every junction of his life must fight against ghosts and demons of his wife's past and present and in attempt outclass himself, the Uncle Koyla, the intellectual: the list is unending. Characters are crafted from all sections of society, making this novel a representation of whole society at that time.Read more ›
I read Zhivago for the first time in high school. I loved it, but didn't pick it up again for 20 years. I was surprised to find it rough going at the beginning. When I had first read the book, it had been precisely the first 100 or so pages that had enchanted me and pulled me into the novel. This time around, it was the complex and often frustrating last half of the book that really moved me. I guess this is a measure of how the book grows with the reader.
Doctor Zhivago is a complicated book that seems to me largely about how people get involved with circumstances (politics, love affairs) that do not interest them, simply because life leaves them vulnerable. That makes for a strange reading experience, because it is not a message that wraps itself up neatly. The texture of the novel is in part about ends-- loose ends, dead ends, character cul-de-sacs. A more experienced author wouldn't have tried to work this theme out in prose using the same methods that Pasternak employed. The book rolls from melodrama to nearly documentary realism. He uses diary form, letters, even poetry to complete the work. I guess it was his lack of experience that allowed him to (very nearly) achieve the impossible. The feeling of the book is an awful lot like life.
There are certainly more polished and perfect novels and novelists out there. Doctor Zhivago would not have profited from their example. As the title of this review says, Zhivago is great precisely because it isn't perfect. It is a great sprawling messy wonderful world of a book.
The events of the novel revolve around a doctor and poet by the name of Yurii Andreievich Zhivago whom we first meet at a crucial point in his life. From the day of his mother's funeral to the day of his own, we follow Zhivago on his travels throughout Russia. He travels to the warfront, flees to Siberia, and is drafted into the Red Army before making his way back to Moscow. Over the course of these two decades, Zhivago repeatedly encounters a beautiful woman who essence fills his thoughts and heart. He is loyal to his wife Tonia and his little son Sasha, but he cannot help falling in love with the lovely Larisa Feodorovna Antipov, who is also already married to a famous war general. It is these chance encounters that allow the plot to progress and lead to their eventual love affair. Even with such a complex plot, "Doctor Zhivago" remains a primarily character-based novel, as can be seen from the vast number of names and people we become familiar with throughout the story. Even the minor characters become dear to us, once we have figured out who they actually are and how they are connected to the main story. It is a challenging process to sort through the long list of characters, who may have any number of pseudonyms or nicknames along with their original Russian forenames. It is rewarding to recognize that Pavel Pavlovich, Pasha, Antipov, and Strelnikov are, in fact, the same person. We are also given several glimpses into the views and opinions of minor characters. Each person we meet along the way has a detailed history and a certain point of view to establish. Even if a character is only remotely connected to the main plot, Pasternak educates us on his family history and his role in the revolution.Read more ›