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Safe Conduct: An Autobiography and Other Writings Paperback – April 14, 2009
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
From the Back Cover
This book puzzled many readers in Russia and when it appeared in English, because it isolated sharp impressions and its juxtapositions seemed to deny chronology, but at least one critic recognized it as 'the most original of autobiographies, employing a new technique of great importance.'
About the Author
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (February, 1890 ― May, 1960) was a Nobel Prize-winning Soviet Russian poet and writer. In the West he is best known for the epic novel Doctor Zhivago, a tragedy, whose events span through the last period of Tsarist Russia and early days of Soviet Union. Pasternak was brought up in a highly cosmopolitan atmosphere, and visitors to his home included pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and writer Leo Tolstoy.
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Take the following quote and if you find it engaging you will enjoy this short and enjoyable book. "And it is from this theme that art is born. It is more one-sided than people think. It cannot be directed at will where one wants like a telescope. Focussed on a reality which feeling has displaced, art is a record of this displacement. It copies from nature. How does nature get into this state of displacement? Details attain clarity, losing independence of meaning. Each detail can be replaced by another. Any one is precious. Any one chosen at random serves as evidence of the state which envelops the whole of transposed reality."
After studying music (under the baton of A. Scriabin) and philosophy (neo-Kantianism in Marburg), Boris Pasternak finally found his true vocation: literature.
His artistic faith
As superbly explained by his French translator, Michel Aucouturier, B. Pasternak's aesthetics are fundamentally influenced by Schopenhauer. Art, true lyricism, binds 'the world as representation' (the objects) to the 'world as will' (our perceptions). True art reveals unexpected features, new aspects of reality. Prose or poetry give a name to these new aspects for the first time and in a unique manner. In this way, art creates a new reality through the 'strength' (the feelings of the author) and through images. In other words, the lyrical principle is a principle of subversion. Art cannot be driven by political imperatives. The poet is always a rebel against the social order: the most enduring images are those of the iconoclast.
Mayakovsky and the totalitarian State
Among the authors of the various Russian literary movements at the time, V. Mayakovsky was B. Pasternak's real hero. The suicide of the one `who had the novelty of the time in his blood', was a very serious blow for B. Pasternak and an unmistakable omen of things to come. (See the memoirs of D. Shostakovich for another view on Mayakovsky.)
During his travels across Europe, B. Pasternak was amazed by Venice, but he stumbles on its 'boca di leone'. Those boxes were for him the symbols of the totalitarian police State: mouths of lions are haunting you everywhere, putting their noses in everything that is intimate; mouths of lions that gobble up one life after another in the secret of their dens.
This literary and politically important book is not a good introduction to B. Pasternak's work. Its phraseology is sometimes ultra poetic. It lacks also the vigor of his masterpiece 'Doctor Zhivago', one of the greatest novels of all time.