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Old 02-14-2020, 03:55 AM   #1
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Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

'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. The poems he writes constitute some of the most beautiful writing featured in the novel.'


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There are two phases of discussion. The first begins immediately and may contain conversations about anything pre-completion of the selection including reading progress, section thoughts, outside info, etc. The second begins on the 1st and also includes anything post-completion. These are recommended to help us discuss things in a similar timeframe but anyone can discuss any part or aspect at any time.


This is the MR Literary Club selection for February 2020. Everyone is welcome so feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time; the more the merrier!



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Old 02-14-2020, 05:34 AM   #2
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It's been a while since I've read this, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I may have to pick it up again.
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Old 02-14-2020, 11:41 PM   #3
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I'm listening to the audiobook narrated by John Lee and translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky. For me they are the cream of Russian translators. After listening to a little, I may also buy the ebook version to go back and refer to passages.

One of the first things I noticed in the writing was how vivid everything was right out the gate. Especially with longer books I feel sometimes it takes an author awhile to set everything up properly before the story and scenes become more vivid in my mind's eye. One of the other things I noticed is that it reminded me of other older Russian authors, which isn't surprising but it's interesting how a national style can pass along through authors. Especially I thought of Tolstoy and while Pasternak's style does seem very different it just seems he was definitely influenced by Tolstoy, with the more obvious similarities being that both are longer 'epics' and the focus on characters pondering philosophy. Oh, and

Spoiler:
the suicide by train, ahem.
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Old 02-15-2020, 05:10 AM   #4
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Pevear and Volokhonsky are definitely the best translators of note for Russian Literature. I've read their translation of War and Peace, twice now. I've got another book in front of this one, but will be reading this after that.

One note, by listening to the book, you are missing out on many of the cultural and historical footnotes that Pevear and Volokhonsky have in the ebook format. That's what I love about their translations.
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Old 02-15-2020, 01:37 PM   #5
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I just started reading the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation since that's what my library had available to borrow. Thanks for the information on their expertise, drofgnal!
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Old 02-15-2020, 01:49 PM   #6
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I read this years ago, because the movie was confusing for me. The book sorted out the time lines and details. I should read it again...
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Old 02-15-2020, 02:18 PM   #7
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I was inspired to nominate this book because last year I read the historical fiction novel The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott. I wouldn't recommend that book for its literary merits (the writing could be improved), but the true stories within it about Boris Pasternak, his lover Olga Ivinskaya (the muse for the character Lara) and Doctor Zhivago were fascinating.

I've wanted to read Doctor Zhivago because it's a famous classic, and it was made into a movie with its own famous reputation. I had no idea that there was such a colorful story behind its banning in Russia. I would like to read the nonfiction book The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn & Petra Couvée published in 2014. It was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist.

From Goodreads:
Quote:
Drawing on newly declassified government files, this is the dramatic story of how a forbidden book in the Soviet Union became a secret CIA weapon in the ideological battle between East and West.

In May 1956, an Italian publishing scout took a train to a village just outside Moscow to visit Russia’s greatest living poet, Boris Pasternak. He left carrying the original manuscript of Pasternak’s first and only novel, entrusted to him with these words: “This is Doctor Zhivago. May it make its way around the world.” Pasternak believed his novel was unlikely ever to be published in the Soviet Union, where the authorities regarded it as an irredeemable assault on the 1917 Revolution. But he thought it stood a chance in the West and, indeed, beginning in Italy, Doctor Zhivago was widely published in translation throughout the world.

From there the life of this extraordinary book entered the realm of the spy novel. The CIA, which recognized that the Cold War was above all an ideological battle, published a Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago and smuggled it into the Soviet Union. Copies were devoured in Moscow and Leningrad, sold on the black market, and passed surreptitiously from friend to friend. Pasternak’s funeral in 1960 was attended by thousands of admirers who defied their government to bid him farewell. The example he set launched the great tradition of the writer-dissident in the Soviet Union.
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Old 02-17-2020, 06:12 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
I was inspired to nominate this book because last year I read the historical fiction novel The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott. I wouldn't recommend that book for its literary merits (the writing could be improved), but the true stories within it about Boris Pasternak, his lover Olga Ivinskaya (the muse for the character Lara) and Doctor Zhivago were fascinating.

I've wanted to read Doctor Zhivago because it's a famous classic, and it was made into a movie with its own famous reputation. I had no idea that there was such a colorful story behind its banning in Russia. I would like to read the nonfiction book The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn & Petra Couvée published in 2014. It was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist.

From Goodreads:

Thanks for the reminder. Another Russian banned novel has been on the MR book club. The Master and the Margarita by Bulgakov. Looking it up, I found another banned book I'm anxious to read, Moscow to the End of the Line by Erofeev. Descriptions are here:

https://www.npr.org/2011/07/14/13381...ed-the-censors

Back to the topic of Dr Zhizago.
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Old 02-19-2020, 01:17 AM   #9
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There are definitely lots of names to keep track of in this book. I read in the intro that many of the names are not common and were intentionally meant to be strange and unusual sounding to native speakers. Same for the geographical place names - big cities normal names but mountain towns made up.
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Old 02-24-2020, 08:52 PM   #10
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My reading of this book is going slowly because I've had some distractions with unexpected home repairs. There are a lot of characters to follow, and it confuses me sometimes. I think that is a typical trait of Russian novels. Thank goodness for the search function on readers! I am also glad that I am reading the ebook version with annotations.

I like the writing, and the imagery is very vivid. I feel like I am there in the setting with the characters, like really seeing the scene through their eyes because of the details. He definitely likes to use the weather to convey the emotional mood.
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Old 02-25-2020, 05:46 AM   #11
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My reading of this book is going slowly because I've had some distractions with unexpected home repairs. There are a lot of characters to follow, and it confuses me sometimes. I think that is a typical trait of Russian novels. Thank goodness for the search function on readers! I am also glad that I am reading the ebook version with annotations.

I like the writing, and the imagery is very vivid. I feel like I am there in the setting with the characters, like really seeing the scene through their eyes because of the details. He definitely likes to use the weather to convey the emotional mood.
Yea, it's easy to get lost in characters. I wish this was X-ray enabled. But at least it can be searched. The translators could have provided a list of characters too. That would have been nice.
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Old 02-25-2020, 03:41 PM   #12
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I've started using this character list https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dr-Zhivago/characters/ which also has brief character analysis and character map tabs. There may be better ones around, this is just the first longer list I came across.

I read on a 10.5 " tablet so it is convenient to just have this open in the web browser to tap back and forwards to while reading.
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Old 02-25-2020, 07:11 PM   #13
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Thank you for the link! That’s a great idea! Maybe I should switch from reading on my Kindle to my iPad.
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Old 02-26-2020, 05:48 AM   #14
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I've started using this character list https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dr-Zhivago/characters/ which also has brief character analysis and character map tabs. There may be better ones around, this is just the first longer list I came across.

I read on a 10.5 " tablet so it is convenient to just have this open in the web browser to tap back and forwards to while reading.
Nice list, I bookmarked it on my iPhone. Yesterday I ran across this character.

Quote:
Kiprian Tiverzin (also known as Kiprian Savelyevich, Savelyevich, Kuprinka, and Tiverzin) is the employee at the Moscow railway station who protects Yusup from Khudoleev.
In a couple of pages they call him Kiprian Tierzin, then a bit later Savelyevich, then his mom called him Kuprinka. War and Peace did the same thing sometimes. You have to read up on the Russians use of diminutives in naming.

Last edited by drofgnal; 02-26-2020 at 08:42 AM.
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Old 02-26-2020, 04:18 PM   #15
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...In a couple of pages they call him Kiprian Tierzin, then a bit later Savelyevich, then his mom called him Kuprinka...
I got to a little over 20% through and found that I was spending more time chasing names and "also knowns" than following the story . So yesterday I decided to start from the beginning again and the story is flowing much better this time (so far).
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