Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Doctor Zhivago Hardcover – 1958
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
The famous Doctor Zhivago. The story of Russia through the turbulent years of the revolution. A major motion picture. First American edition published by Pantheon Books. Has 559 pages.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
For me - I spent most of my adult life as an analyst of foreign political, economic, social, and military affairs - Doctor Zhivago is particularly brilliant in its depiction of the horrors and dislocations war and civil war inflict on populations, and especially those segments with little or no recourse to "safety nets" of any variety - personal, familial, governmental, church-, religion-, or community-based, or other. Pasternak depicts the range of human ingenuity in such circumstances, as individiuals cobble together the means of extracting brief moments of small pleasure from the tractor-pull of events. But through an accumulation of hundreds of small details, often in asides and parenthetic observations, Pasternak conveys the epochal common misfortunes and hardships of those whose accident of history made them Russians born around and after 1900. The novel compels us to consider that, at some point in the 20th century, such horrors of remorseless privation, despotism, and brutal inhumanity were visited upon the majority of humanity - the Europe of the World Wars, China for most of the century, and on and on - and how fortunate those spared such travails (and their descendents) are.
Throughout, Pasternak's characters comment on the flow of events, the political struggles, the conduct of, first, the World War and later the Civil War, the states-of-play at various key junctures, the putative winners and losers, the impositions of what must seem arbitrary policy (and then policy reversals), all in the name of advancing to some formless Communist Utopia but, to the cynically incisive observations of Zhivago and other perceptive observers, simply a Soviet variation of high-stakes politics of power-seeking individuals. THIS is how depotism and deprivation of freedom looks, and it's an experience alien to most American readers and one worthy of serious contemplation. Zhivago is filled with long, philosophical digressions that in general weigh humanism and spirituality against ideological politics; many found these passages tedious and a drag on the narrative. Suffice to say, I did not. Moreover, I found even Pevear-Volokhonsky's more literal translation filled with beautifully poetic moments, as were the translations of "Yuri Zhivago's poetry" that forms an appendix to the novel.
In short, I found Doctor Zhivago a transporting literary experience and a profound reflection on Soviet Communism. And a book I will reread, soon, in the Hayward-Harari translation.
In this respect, Pasternak is a true heir to the likes of Tolstoy - the characters have a sense of the events around them and seek to impact them, but are simultaneously caught up and overwhelmed by them. Opening with the 1905 Revolution and continuing through the eventual collapse of Imperial Russia, the Civil War and the stabilization of the USSR under Stalin, Yuri Zhivago and Larua Antipova literally and figuratively follow their hearts in matters of politics and love. However - and this is a big "however" - Zhivago is not without its problems.
As with any piece of Russian literature, there tend to be issues with names and patronymics. (A patronymic is the name of one's father - ie. "Yuri Alexandrovich", "Androvich" being the patronymic, a reference to Yuri's father.) Characters are referred to by first name, by first name and patronymic and sometimes only by patronymic. My advice is to simply be patient - one quicly becomes accustomed to the reference. Of greater frustration for me was the emphasis on the minutae - while the detailed descriptions of setting and character certainly helped to breathe life into the story, after some 200-odd pages of it, it simply became wearisome and I found myself wanting Pasternak to simply get on with the story. This too is typical of Russian literature, I know, but for me it got in the way of the storytelling, hence the deduction of a star.
This (petty) issue aside, I was profoundly moved by the beauty of the story and the struggle Zhivago had with himself, torn between his love for Lara and for his family as he was swept up in events infinately larger than himself. The collection of "his" poetry at the end of the book was powerful, beautiful and provided a marvelous retrospetive of the narrative arc. For this, I add a star.
_Doctor Zhivago_ is a challenging read, to be sure. But as with every challenge, it is also tremendously rewarding.