The Zhivago Affair

The Zhivago Affair

The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over A Forbidden Book

Book - 2014 | First edition
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Drawing on newly declassified files, this is the story of how a book forbidden in the Soviet Union became a secret CIA weapon in the ideological battle between East and West. In May 1956, an Italian publishing scout paid a visit to Russia's greatest living poet, Boris Pasternak. He left carrying the 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 would never be published in the Soviet Union, where the authorities regarded it as irredeemable--but he thought it stood a chance in the West and, indeed, it was widely published in translation. Then the CIA smuggled a Russian-language edition into the Soviet Union. Copies were sold on the black market and passed surreptitiously from friend to friend, and Pasternak found himself in no small trouble. But his funeral in 1960 was attended by thousands of admirers who defied their government in order to bid him farewell. The example he set launched the great tradition of the Soviet writer-dissident.--From publisher description.
Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, [2014]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780307908001
Branch Call Number: 891.7342 P2685F 2014
Characteristics: 352 pages ; 25 cm
Additional Contributors: Couvée, Petra


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Nov 29, 2020

A very interesting read, but as another reviewer noted, the title is a little misleading. There us actually very little in the book about the CIA -what is there is very interesting, but the book is much more about Pasternak’s life and the trials and tribulations of the publication of the book. As someone else noted, it is “not a page turner”, but it would be of interest to anyone who has read and enjoyed the book or seen the movie, or anyone who has an interest in the lives of great writers or this period of history in the Soviet Union.

Dec 12, 2017

Interesting read but definitely not a page turner. In addition to information regarding the CIA attempting to influence public opinion and Soviet citizens in particular, there are interesting tidbits regarding life and living in the Soviet Union. Dr Zhivago is a classic movie, and this book provides information on how Boris Pasternak came to write the book and the reaction of Soviet authorities.

Sep 01, 2015

The title may be a bit misleading: Cold War clashes between the Kremlin and the CIA form a very small part of this book. In reality, it's a biography of Boris Pasternak and a journalistic account of the artistic repression imposed by the Stalinist and post-Stalinist Soviet regimes in the 1950s and that continued through the 1970s. While the vehemence with which the regime persecuted Pasternak for what they perceived as an anti-Soviet novel clearly revealed to the western world the state of fear that drove the Kremlin to act as it did, and though they were never really successful in suppressing the work, none of that relieved Pasternak and his family and small circle of closest friends from the effects of the Kremlin's vicious, unrelenting attacks. Perhaps the most outrageous of all was the dreadful punishment that continued to be visited upon Pasternak's lover Olga Ivinskaya and her young daughter Irina after Pasternak's death, ostensibly for illegal currency trading (i.e. having helped Pasternak to smuggle in some money from abroad to support his family while he was prevented from earning a living) but really out of spite and in an attempt to further discredit anyone who had supported Pasternak in any way.
The final irony is surely that Khruschchev, having read "Doctor Zhivago" after his ouster a few years later concluded that "We shouldn't have banned it. There's nothing anti-Soviet in it."

Oct 23, 2014

P. 43

ChristchurchLib Aug 06, 2014

Doctor Zhivago, a novel published in translation during the late 1950s by Russian author Boris Pasternak, created a sensation in the West with its negative depiction of the Russian Revolution. The CIA recognized that the book could promote anti-communist sentiment within the Soviet Union, so they arranged to produce copies of the original Russian text and sneak them into Russia. The Zhivago Affair relates the exciting story of how the book-smuggling was accomplished, the severe consequences the Kremlin imposed on Pasternak and his family, and the international controversy aroused by the novel. Publishers Weekly calls this a "triumphant reminder that truth is sometimes gloriously stranger than fiction." History and current events newsletter August 2014.

Jul 26, 2014

how the Soviets pinned Boris Pasternak on the crucifix of Communism, how ideologies, secular or religious, crush inexorably the human spirit, though sometimes its poetry, like a phoenix, is resurrected to inspire, in a masterpiece


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