Thursday, January 28, 2010

Me and Boris Pasternak

Boris Pasternak: I was sent to Siberia because I won a Nobel Prize for literature, what was your crime?

Gary Freedman: I was described as being as close to the perfect employee as it is possible to find. Apparently, that was a crime.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

Although Boris Pasternak hoped for the best when he submitted Doctor Zhivago to a leading Moscow monthly in 1956, it was rejected with the accusation that "it represented in a libelous manner the October Revolution, the people who made it, and social construction in the Soviet Union." The book reached the West in 1957 through an Italian publishing house that had bought rights to it from Pasternak and refused to return it "for revisions." By 1958, the year of its English edition, the book had been translated into 18 languages.

In the Soviet Union, the Nobel Prize brought a campaign of abuse. Pasternak was ejected from the Union of Soviet Writers and thus deprived of his livelihood. Public meetings called for his deportation; he wrote Premier Nikita Khrushchev, "Leaving the motherland will equal death for me." Although none of his Soviet critics had the chance to read the proscribed novel, some of them publicly demanded, "kick the pig out of our kitchen-garden," i.e., expel Pasternak from the USSR. This led to a jocular Russian saying used to poke fun at illiterate criticism, "I did not read Pasternak, but I condemn him". A famous Bill Mauldin cartoon at the time showed Pasternak and another prisoner in Siberia, splitting trees in the snow. In the caption, Pasternak says, "I won the Nobel Prize for literature. What was your crime?"