I mentioned in my post about The Anna Karenina Fix by Viv Groskop that I had been inspired to read more Russian literature. I found Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak on BorrowBox. The translation was by Richard Pavear and Larissa Volokhonsky, published by Vintage books. Having read Viv Groskop’s explanation of Russian names and their diminutives helped my understanding of this book.
I had seen the film decades ago, but missed the beginning and didn’t really understand much of it. It probably does not convey the breadth and depth of Boris Pasternak’s knowledge to the same extent as the book.
Dr Zhivago is a long, complicated story set in the early years of the 20th century, when Europe was in a state of turmoil with various wars and political unrest in many countries. The Russian revolution took place during the period covered by this novel.
The story of Dr Zhivago’s life is recounted with lots of beautifully described short scenes. The cultural background is brought into the story as Dr Zhivago is a well-read, talented writer as well as an extremely gifted medical doctor. Religious and superstitious traditions also play a part in the story. There are many quotations from and references to the Bible and the Russian Orthodox liturgy. Dr Zhivago’s beliefs are not stated. He seems to have been a pragmatic person, taking what life sent in his direction and ignoring convention at times.
The privations of this time of reorganisation made me wonder about our own time with the pandemic, migrants, overstretched-health services and widespread discontent with the government in more than one country.
The book had many superscripts referring to notes. In the ebook these were not links, so I was unable to look them up conveniently as I read. Dr Zhivago’s poems were also referred to in the narrative and appeared at the end before the notes. If I find a printed copy I may well read this again as there was much I didn’t fully understand due to my unfamiliarity with the history of, for example, the Russian civil war. It took me over 3 weeks to read (having read The widow’s secret after starting Dr Zhivago) even with extra reading time due to the weather being too hot to go out for walks.