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Boris Pasternak (29.01.1890 - 30.05.1960) - Russian poet and novelist.

  , Boris Pasternak photoPasternak was born in Moscow on February 10, (Gregorian), 1890 (Julian January 29). His parents were a prominent Jewish painter Leonid Pasternak, professor at the Moscow School of Painting and Rosa (Raitza) Kaufman, a concert pianist. Pasternak was brought up in a cosmopolitan atmosphere, his home being visited by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Leo Tolstoy.

Inspired by his neighbour Alexander Scriabin, Pasternak resolved to become a composer and entered the Moscow Conservatory. In 1910, he abruptly left the conservatory for the University of Marburg, where he studied under Neo-Kantian philosophers Hermann Cohen and Nicolai Hartmann. Although invited to become a scholar, he decided against philosophy as a profession and returned to Moscow in 1914. His first collection of poetry, influenced by Alexander Blok and the Russian Futurists, was published later that year.

Pasternak's early verse cleverly dissimulates his preoccupation with Kant's ideas. Its fabric includes striking alliterations, wild rhythmic combinations, day-to-day vocabulary, and hidden allusions to his favourite poets - Rilke, Lermontov and the German Romantics.

During World War I he taught and worked at a chemical factory in the Urals; this undoubtedly provided him with material for Dr. Zhivago many years later. Unlike his relatives and many of his friends, Pasternak didn't leave Russia after the revolution. He was fascinated with the new ideas and possibilities the revolution had brought to life.

Pasternak spent the summer of 1917 living in the steppe country near Saratov, where he fell in love with a Jewish girl. This passion resulted in the collection My Sister Life, which he wrote for three months and was embarrassed to publish for four years, so novel was its style. When it finally appeared in 1921, the book had a revolutionary impact upon Russian poetry. It made Pasternak the model of imitation for younger poets, and decisively changed the poetic manners of Osip Mandelshtam and Marina Tsvetayeva, to name only a few.

Following My Sister Life, Pasternak produced some hermetic pieces of uneven quality, including his masterpiece, a lyric cycle entitled Rupture (1921). Various authors such as Vladimir Mayakovsky, Andrey Bely, and Vladimir Nabokov applauded Pasternak's poems as works of pure, unbridled inspiration. In the later 1920s he also participated in the celebrated tripartite correspondence with Rilke and Tsvetayeva.

By the end of the 1920s, Pasternak increasingly felt that his colourful modernist style was at odds with the doctrine of Socialist Realism approved by the Communist party. He attempted to make his poetry more comprehensible to the masses by reworking his earlier pieces and starting two lengthy poems on the Russian Revolution. He also turned to prose and wrote several autobiographic stories, notably "The Childhood of Luvers" and "Safe Conduct."

By 1932, Pasternak had strikingly reshaped his style to make it acceptable to the Soviet public and printed the new collection of poems aptly entitled The Second Birth. Although its Caucasian pieces were as brilliant as the earlier efforts, the book alienated the core of Pasternak's refined audience abroad. He simplified his style even further for his next collection of patriotic verse, Early Trains (1943), which prompted Nabokov to describe Pasternak as a "weeping Bolshevik" and "Emily Dickinson in trousers."

During the great purges of the later 1930s, Pasternak became progressively disillusioned with the Communist ideals. Reluctant to publish his own poetry, he turned to translating Shakespeare (Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear), Goethe (Faust), Rilke (Requiem fur eine Freundin), Paul Verlaine, and Georgian poets. Pasternak's translations of Shakespeare have proved popular with the Russian public because of their colloquial, modernised dialogues, but critics accused him of "pasternakizing" the English playwright. Although he was widely panned for excessive subjectivism, Stalin is said to have crossed Pasternak's name off an arrest list during the purges, saying "Don't touch this cloud dweller."

Pasternak died of lung cancer on May 30, 1960. Despite only a small notice appearing in the Literary Gazette, many thousands of people travelled from Moscow to his funeral in Peredelkino.



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