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Showing 1-10 of 74 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 115 reviews
on July 1, 2014
During the Cold War, the CIA was engaged in relentless global warfare with the Kremlin. The agency used a host of front organizations and phony foundations, spent many millions of dollars to fund concert tours, art exhibitions, magazines, academic research, student activities and book publishing. All theses were weapons in the covert action against the Soviet Union masterminded by George Kennan, who was the intellectual author behind this. One estimate says that some 10 million books and periodicals were distributed by the CIA in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. "Doctor Zhivago" was one of those books which was printed and distributed clandestinely in the main Russian cities.
This book, which is just one episode in the colossal ideological battle between the two superpowers, is excellent and is very original. The authors have put in a tremendous effort in researching its topic, using many untapped archives and interviews. It reads like a fast best-selling political thriller. This is a fascinating account of the propaganda machines the USA used against the Eastern Bloc, showing Pasternak's and his friends' courage and it shows to what extent the battle for the minds of the readers in the East was conducted. It is also a detailed story about the cultural and intellectual background of the thirties to the fifties in the USSR.
This battle over the publication of "Doctor Zhivago" was one of the first efforts by the CIA to leverage books as instruments of political warfare. It was Khrushchev himself who admitted in the end that the Russians "caused much harm to the Soviet Union "and added that he was "truly sorry for the way he behaved toward Pasternak".
There were additional writers who followed Pasternak's way, among them Solzhenitsyn and Brodsky.This book is highly recommended.
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on September 25, 2015
When the celebrated poet Boris Pasternak began the novel Doctor Zhivago in 1945, he and his fellow Russian writers were living under the terrifying, watchful eye of Joseph Stalin. Pasternak had lived through the exhilaration and the disillusionment of the 1917 October Revolution and he wanted to write a piece of fiction that would capture the events surrounding it, even if it meant revealing the historic flaws that continued to infect the repressive government under which he lived. When he finished Doctor Zhivago in 1955 it was (predictably) rejected by the Soviet press so Pasternak smuggled the manuscript into Italy to be translated and published. “It does not matter what might happen to me,” he told his friend, Isaiah Berlin. “My life is finished. The book is my last word to the civilized world.” Doctor Zhivago made its way around the globe at warp speed, coming full circle in 1958 when the CIA ’s Russian-language edition was smuggled back into the Soviet Union for Pasternak’s countrymen to read. Based on newly released documents, Finn and Couvée’s account reads like a spy thriller with a deeply flawed but heroic writer at its center. History, Cold War politics, romance, intrigue…this book-about-a-book packs a punch.
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on November 2, 2016
"Books are different from all other propaganda media," wrote the CIA chief of covert action, "primarily because one single book can significantly change the reader's attitude and action to an extent unmatched by the impact of any other single medium...that is, of course, not true of all books at all times and with all readers -- but it is true significantly often enough to make books the most important weapon of strategic (long-range) propaganda."

This is the true story of how the CIA used the novel Dr. Zhivago as a weapon in the cold-war fight for the hearts and minds of Russian citizens. In fact, the CIA had a "book program" which smuggled hundreds of titles into eastern bloc countries. So, beyond all the politics, beyond the biography of Boris Pasternak, this book is also a testament to the power of literature.

The book is well written, almost reading like a spy novel at times. We see what life was like in Stalinist Russia and how important the Cold War was to the U.S. We see the life of Boris Pasternak, including the open affair he carried on and the pressure placed on him to renounce the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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on July 25, 2014
This is a fascinating story that combines a mini-biography of Dr. Zhivago's writer, Boris Pasternak; intellectual life in the Soviet Union during the Cold War; and how on one of the best books of the 20th century overcame tremendous odds to become an international best seller. Particularly, interesting was how Pasternak was determined to see his book read on a worldwide basis with a love of his homeland, albeit not its government. After rejecting the Nobel prize, he could have accepted exile and riches in the West, but could not bring himself to leave Russia. That, of course, is the overview. Equally fascinating are the details of how the book found its way out of the Soviet Union; the interplay between Pasternak and other intellectuals; and a rather different family life. A good read.
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on April 1, 2016
This excellent tale of cold war intrigue and the misery of artistic life in the USSR, is a tribute to the foolishness of governments which try to suppress thought and artistic expression, and also is a tribute to the spirit of a great artist, Boris Pasternak, who persisted in the face of what he knew would be a terrible response, to get what he considered to be his masterpiece published in the west. The role played by the CIA in disseminating Russian language versions of the book and getting them back into the USSR is interesting, but is not the heart of what this book is about. At the end of the day, it is the story of how one great artist resisted the tyranny of the USSR, and also how the USSR made a mountain range out of a mountain in trying to suppress the book. It is a sad story, to me, but one that should be told, and I recommend the book most heartily.-
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on July 15, 2015
Until I read this I had no idea just how long Pasternak had taken to write 'Dr.Zhivago', nor the degree to which he and his family and friends were systematically persecuted by apparatchiks in the regime. The tortuous path to publication in the West, and eventually in Russia, with all the risks involved, both to the integrity of the novel, and to the individuals involved, is extraordinary. Needless to say, having seen the film years ago, I had to buy a copy of 'Zhivago' to find out what all the fuss had been about, and like Khruschev, apparently, I couldn't see what justified it, other than personal individual vendetta. It's a bit slow and complicated to read, to the point of having to take notes of who's who, and I did wonder how Boris justified to himself the risks to which he subjected his friends.
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on August 29, 2014
Very detailed account of the times and of the life of Pasternak after Dr. Zhivago was published. It is also a view into the general cultural life of Russia at that time. I was fascinated with the details of how the novel got back into Russia and the reaction to it. Pasternak's personal life is also detailed and almost as interesting as the information about the novel. I was not fully aware of what a highly respected and widely read poet Pasternak was. His treatment by the power structure and their incredible fear of his work are difficult to fathom. It is an in depth account of a great man who was also a great writer.
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on October 12, 2014
This is an interesting back story on Boris Pasternak. I had read Dr. Zzhivago when it first came out and it has been one of the best novels I have ever read in my 78 years on this earth. Getting the back story was fascinating, but it had too much detail for me. I got bogged down in the detail. Still I would rate if very high for new content about Pasternak and his family.
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on August 12, 2014
I was surprised that this book would keep my interest, since I never read the novel, only saw the movie . The authors are able to combine intensive research with character studies and sometimes chilling historical perspective in the life and times of Boris Pasternak.
While I could not say I came to like him in the narrative, I could understand why he had the approval and love of so many.
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on July 16, 2014
Amazing to learn about all this and also rewarding to know so many tried to help Pasternak. But how sad to learn about his last weeks and days and his failing to know what an impact his novel had or about the movie which was many of my generation's awareness of him.
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