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 Second 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!
Jazmin Truesdale has been a proud nerd all her life, loving comic books, science fiction, and action movies, but always looking for some positive representation within those entertainment spheres. As one may imagine the worlds of graphic novels and comic books are very straight-white-male-centric, with shallow female characters. and few depictions of non-white women.
Jazmin, with her entrepreneurial mind and passion for cultural diversity, began creating characters she would want to read about and, with the help from an illustrator, her universe was born. It has not been an easy journey- finding an illustrator who knew how to draw Black women’s bodies was one particular hurdle to overcome, however Jazmin’s drive and focus ensured her goal became a reality.
The author, who has sold more than 70 million books during her career claims that her husband, Lawrence Kenyon was lacing her food with poison from 2014 until they split last year. She says the poison left her with clumps of hair falling out, crumbling teeth, tremors and back pain, all unexplained by doctors until tests showed unusually high levels of lithium in her blood.
She claims her husband was helped by his assistant Kerrie Ann Plump and her IT specialist Paco Cavanaugh to carry on the scheme and says that her husband laced her food while Cavanaugh siphoned hundreds of thousands off her bank accounts.
Born Susan Rosenblatt in New York City to Jewish parents of Lithuanian and Polish descent. When Susan was five years old her father died and several years later her mother married a US Army Captain, Nathan Sontag, giving Susan the name we remember her by. Despite being raised by Jewish parents, Sontag stated that she did not have a religious upbringing and was in her 20s before she entered a synagogue.
Before he created the writer-persona of Dr Seuss, Geisel was an artist of another kind. In his spare time he created sculptures of interesting and strange creatures, using parts of real animals. Of course it is not as grotesque as it sounds- the animal parts were given to Theodor after the animals died of natural causes. His father was the superintendent of parks in Massachusetts at the time when a young Geisel was working as a fledgling author and illustrator. When zoo and park animals crossed the rainbow bridge, Geisel’s father sent him the various animals’ parts to help him create some whacky characters.
Horns, antlers, beaks, and all sorts were used by Geisel to build some of the most fantastical animals that, unsurprisingly, look like they have jumped straight out of a Dr Seuss picture book.
The author of And We’re Off, and memoir Choose Your Own Disaster, offered to stand at the back of a funeral with a massive black umbrella, looking mysterious. For a small fee, of course.
Fellow authors and humorists of Twitter, including our favourite Neil Gaiman, got involved to either take her up on the offer or to join the enterprise. A surprising amount of people were up for it, prompting Schwartz to promote her latest book in place of Venmo donations.