Nobel Prize Recipient. Boris Pasternak, a Russian author, received world-wide notoriety after being awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature. According to the Nobel Prize committee, he received the coveted award "for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition." He received nine nominations for the Nobel candidacy. During his career, he was a poet, novelist, and literary translator. During World War I, he worked at a chemical factory in the Ural Mountains. His most famous piece and his only novel was "Doctor Zhivago," which was smuggled from the Soviet Union to Milan, Italy to be published in 1957. Even with Soviet censorship of his poetry, he had continued to write the novel, which took more than ten years to finish. The plot of the 592-page novel is forbidden love, which takes place between the Russian Revolution and World War II. The novel's storyline is complicated with many characters and subplots, which, at times, are difficult to follow. Later in 1965, "Doctor Zhivago" was adapted into a Hollywood film of the same name. The film is known for the winter wonderland filmography, beautiful period clothing, and a forever-popular musical score. Listed as one of the top ten highest-grossing films, the film received five Oscars, yet critics made a long list of the historical errors made in the film. In 1958 he was awarded and agreed to accept the Nobel Prize for Literature, but was later forced to reject the award as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was humiliated and enraged. The novel was considered anti-communist, especially the novel's criticisms of Stalinism and references to the gulag. In 1989 Pasternak's son went to Stockholm to accept his father's Nobel Prize medal, but not the monetary award. Born Boris Leonidovich Pasternak one of four children, his father was a talented painter and illustrator of Russian author Leo Tolstoy's works and his mother a well-known concert pianist. The family left the Orthodox Church to follow Tolstoyan Christianity. He had the advantage of being exposed to an artistic environment. After receiving a private classic education, he enrolled at the University of Moscow. He studied musical composition for six years from 1904 to 1910. By 1912 he had renounced music as his calling in life, and trying to find himself, he went to the University of Marburg in Germany to study philosophy. After four months there and a trip to Italy, he returned to Russia and decided to dedicate himself to literature. Following the Russian Revolution, his parents and sisters escaped to Germany and from 1923, he was not able to visit them, even with yearly applications to the Soviet government. In 1922 Pasternak married Yevgeniya Lurye. Some of his earliest writings, which went unnoticed, were lost in a fire. He made his debut with the 1914 collection of poems, "My Sister Life," which was published in Berlin in 1922. Within a short time, he became not only recognized as a Russian poet, but an international poet. Through the years that followed, his poems were banned by the government and, with this censorship, he lost his income causing a hardship for his family. He wrote volumes of poetry with some being pages long, thus being called a "novel in verse." Among his many translation of William Shakespeare is "Hamlet," which is considered an honored piece of literature. He penned his autobiography, "Safe Conduct," in 1931, but followed with "An Essay in Autobiography," which was published in 1959, first in Italian, and subsequently in English. With the ending of World War II, in 1945 his father and oldest son died, which followed with his second wife's deep depression. In 1946, he met and fell in love with Olga Ivinskaya, a beautiful, young poet. She was a widow with two children. An extramarital relationship began that would last the rest of his life. While pregnant with his child, she was found guilty of spying and sent to a force labor camp in 1949 until 1953; the public knew that she was being punished for Pasternak's dissent. She miscarried while in prison. Without Ivinskaya, he would not have written "Doctor Zhivago" as their forbidden love inspired the character of "Lara." During Joseph Stalin's Great Purge, he feared for his life as many of his colleagues were sent to Siberia for years or executed. In 1952 he had a serious heart attack, but continued to write even with the stress of censorship. In the summer of 1959, he began "The Blind Beauty," a play about an enslaved artist during the period of serfdom in Russia. This went unfinished as he was diagnosed with lung cancer early in 1960. He died at his home in Peredelkino, a suburb of Moscow, where he also is buried. Against the government's control, thousands attended his funeral. The censoring campaign against Pasternak was published internationally, disgracing the Soviet government. A large selection of his writings has been translated into the English language. The dissolution of the Soviet Union was on December 3, 1991. Since 2003, "Doctor Zhivago" has become part of the reading for 11th grade students in public Russian schools.
Bio by: Linda Davis