This is a 520 page book followed by 25 poems on Russia and Lara by the lead protagonist Yurii Zhivago. I quite agree with Nabokov that Boris Pasternak is a good poet but a bad writer. The 520 pages is a saga with about 100 characters. It begins with the death of Yurii’s mother and ends with his death followed by an epilogue wherein like the ending of a bad novel his illegitimate daughter springs up.
The only good part about the book is that it is set in Russia during the World War and the following Russian Revolution. But the book is so verbose getting into trivial details but the character sketch even of the main protagonists is so dismal and superfluous. The so-called love of Lara and Zhivago that is supposed to be the essence of the book itself is so unconvincing. The author just described the events in great detail. The characters are far too many but none of them are portrayed properly with their beliefs and hence you cannot identify with any character.
I can’t help but compare the book with Anna Karenina wherein the beliefs and idiosyncrasies of each character was so well-defined that you could identify with each one of them.
Some nice quotes from the book:
“Art always serves beauty, and beauty is the joy of possessing form, and form is the key to organic life since no living thing can exist without it.”
I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and of little value. Life hasn’t revealed it’s beauty to them.”
“About dreams. It is usually taken for granted that you dream of something that has made a particularly strong impression on you during the day, but it seems to me it´s just the contrary. Often it´s something you paid no attention to at the time — a vague thought that you didn´t bother to think out to the end, words spoken without feeling and which passed unnoticed — these are the things that return at night, clothed in flesh and blood, and they become the subjects of dreams, as if to make up for having been ignored during waking hours.”
“Oh, how one wishes sometimes to escape from the meaningless dullness of human eloquence, from all those sublime phrases, to take refuge in nature, apparently so inarticulate, or in the wordlessness of long, grinding labor, of sound sleep, of true music, or of a human understanding rendered speechless by emotion!”
“Everything established, settled, everything to do with home and order and the common ground, has crumbled into dust and has been swept away in the general upheaval and reorganization of the whole of society. The whole human way of life has been destroyed and ruined. All that’s left is the bare, shivering human soul, stripped to the last shred, the naked force of the human psyche for which nothing has changed because it was always cold and shivering and reaching out to its nearest neighbor, as cold and lonely as itself.”
“Art had two constant, unending preoccupations: it is always meditating upon death and always thereby creating life.”
- #DailyBookQuote 11Jul13 : Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago (bhuwanchand.wordpress.com)
- Beyond Akhmatova and Pasternak: Discovering Soviet poets (rbth.ru)
- The unbearable dullness of human eloquence (nancynowellblog.wordpress.com)