Rediscover: Doctor Zhivago

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Doctor Zhivago's first publication. The story of how this Russian epic's initial printing came to be in Italian casts as critical a light on the Soviet Union as Boris Pasternak's actual novel. His manuscript was rejected by Soviet censors for placing the welfare of individuals above the welfare of society (in defiance of socialist realism), and for his unflattering depictions of Soviet history. Publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli smuggled the manuscript out of Russia and published it in his native Italian. Much to the chagrin of Soviet authorities, and to the detriment of Pasternak's personal safety, Doctor Zhivago became an international sensation. Pasternak received the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature, which he was forced to renounce. He died of lung cancer in 1960 at age 70. David Lean's 1965 film adaptation starring Omar Sharif was filmed mostly in Spain, since Pasternak's work remained censored until the 1980s.

Doctor Zhivago is, at its core, a love story between physician/poet Yuri Zhivago and his mistress Lara set in the waning days of Imperial Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution and the ensuing Russian Civil War. It was last published in 2011 by Vintage International, with translations by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky ($16.95, 9780307390950). On January 24, Ecco will publish Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago by Anna Pasternak, Boris's grand-niece, about the influence of mistress Olga Ivinskaya on Boris Pasternak's work. --Tobias Mutter

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