Boris Pasternak (10th February, 1890 – 30 May, 1960) was a Soviet Russian poet, novelist, and literary translator, probably best known for the novel, Doctor Zhivago. The popular novel was written in 1957, and takes place between the Russian Revolution, and the First World War. It went on to win the author the Nobel Prize for Literature, has been immortalised in a famous movie and is one of the best known Russian stories of all time.
However, Doctor Zhivago was released in a mire of controversy due to the way it portrayed Soviet Russia. The book was immediately rejected for publication in the USSR, and the Communist Part of the Soviet Union were enraged, forcing Pasternak to reject the Nobel Prize. This in itself is interesting enough, but in declassified files we’ve learned that the CIA arranged the first ever publication of the book in Russia.
According to BBC Magazine, in 1958 a Dutch secret service agent brought home a small package wrapped in brown paper, the latest weapon in the struggle between the West and the Soviet Union. However, inside was not guns or ammunition, but a copy of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, the first one in Russian language.
The book was part of a clandestine print run he’d collected from the publishers and passed onto the CIA. The plan was for several hundred copies to be handed out to Soviet visitors to the Brussels Universal International Exposition, which was taking place that year. Pasternak was already well known in Soviet Russia for his poetry and his translation work, and it was thought that Soviets might be keen to read this banned works.
It was thought the work would be a great propaganda tool, one of the declassified memos read “We have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what is wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even available in his own country,”. Another reads “Pasternak’s humanistic message – that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state – poses a fundamental challenge to the Soviet ethic of sacrifice of the individual to the Communist system,”.
The move worked and pretty soon the blue linen covers could be found littering fairgrounds, as people tore off the covers and divided the work up to make it easier to hide (I know, right! Eek. But needs must).
Word soon reached Pasternak himself, who wrote to a friend in Paris asking if it was true that Doctor Zhivago had been printed in Russian, as he had heard that copies had been handed out.
It’s a fascinating story and one that even the author was unaware of at the time. You can read all about it in The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book, and of course we recommend adding the original novel to your TBR too!
A television series was produced in the 70s and 80s and was loosely based on Ingalls’ books- it starred Melissa Gilbert as Laura and Michael Landon as her father, Charles. She is still celebrated today all across the USA, with museums and honouring her, and her name marking her previous homesteads throughout the country.
A keen writer as a child, Ruskin graduated in 1950 after winning several writing competitions in school including the Irwin Divinity Prize and the Hailey Literature Prize. He wrote one of his first short stories Untouchable when he was just 16 years old.
Recently King has offered one of his short stories for free online. The story is Laurie and follows a man and his journey through the late stages of grief and a beautiful gift his sister gives him to help him through his pain. In typical King style it is richly written, with a story that sucks you straight in (no spoilers).
Follow the link below to read the free short story for yourself.
Born Thomas Kennerly Wolfe Jr. on 2nd March 1930 in Richmond Virginia, Tom Wolfe showed his love for writing early, as editor of the school newspaper. After graduating in 1947, Wolfe turned down an offer for Princeton University and instead attented Washington and Lee University where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity. During his time at university he majored in English, was sports editor of the university newspaper and helped to found a literary magazine, Shenandoah giving him plenty of opportunity to practice his writing and journalistic skills. Read More