CBR10Bingo – Banned Book
Not only was this a banned book…it’s almost THE banned book.
Maybe I am cheating here, but rather than focus on a book banned by America, I am choosing a book that was not even allowed to be published in its own language before being translated several different times in different countries. Pasternak was already a very famous and renowned poet for a long time before starting to write this book. The book itself is a kind of Russian Romantic epic brought squarely into the 20th century, taking place right before, during, and in the early years of the 1918 Russian revolution. In the book. Yuri Zhivago is of a smallish land-owning family, trains to be a doctor, and maintains his practice during the years of civil warfare, never choosing a side. All the while, both sides keep pulling him in and asking him to account for himself and pledge himself, which he never really does. So when the war finally comes to an end, he is at best an outcast. Amid all this he carries on a doomed love affair with Lara, also from his part of the country and writes poetry (mostly non “political” in nature) to keep his sanity.
And so the book, which romanticizes pre-Revolution Russia, criticizes both sides of the conflict, and also espouses individualism, land-ownership, and other forms of liberty was never allowed to be published in Russia, in Russian, during Pasternak’s lifetime. He was not a political prisoner because of this, but he was a kind of exile and died somewhat prematurely. He also won the 1958 Nobel Prize, which was definitely a kind of trolling act by the committee and had he accepted it, he would have been exiled or imprisoned. Instead, he said something to the effect of “I have to turn this down and WE ALL KNOW WHY.”
I tend to find the story of the book more interesting than the book itself, and it’s importance in Russian literature of the 20th century is monumental. It was probably one of the three most important novels that was part of the literary underground–printed and sold in the black market and passes around by anti-Soviets in Russia–alongside Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading and Bulgakov’s The Master and the Margarita.