On 23 October 1958 Boris Pasternak (1890 – 1960) was announced as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition.”
Pasternak accepted the award, but was later forced to decline it by Soviet authorities who had banned his novel “Doctor Zhivago”.
Pasternak was the first writer of the Soviet regime who dared convey the truth about his country’s recent history, and censors interpreted some passages as anti-Soviet and objected to his subtle criticisms of Stalinism, Marxism and Communism.
Although no Soviet critics had read the banned novel, “Doctor Zhivago” was pilloried in the State-owned press.
Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who had learned of the existence of the novel through his literature scout, arranged for the manuscript to be smuggled out of Russia and into Milan, where an Italian translation was published in 1957, despite attempts from the KGB to cancel or delay publication.
Some quotes from “Doctor Zhivago”
“Man is born to live, not to prepare for life.”
“I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and of little value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.”
“How wonderful to be alive, he thought. But why does it always hurt?”
“The great majority of us are required to live a life of constant duplicity. Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day, you say the opposite of what you feel, if you grovel before what you dislike, and rejoice at what brings you nothing but misfortune. Our nervous system isn’t just a fiction, it’s part of our physical body, and our souls exists in space and is inside us, like the teeth in the mouth. It can’t forever be violated with impunity.”
“L’uomo nasce per vivere, non per prepararsi alla vita.”
“Io non amo la gente perfetta, quelli che non sono mai caduti, non hanno inciampato. La loro è una virtù spenta, di poco valore. A loro non si è svelata la bellezza della vita.”
“Che bello essere vivi, pensò. Ma perché fa sempre così male?”
“Alla gran maggioranza di noi si richiede un’ipocrisia costante, eretta a sistema. Ma non si può, senza conseguenze, mostrarsi ogni giorno diversi da quello che ci si sente: sacrificarsi per ciò che non si ama, rallegrarci di ciò che ci rende infelici. Il sistema nervoso non è un vuoto suono, o un’invenzione. È un corpo fisico, formato di tessuti. La nostra anima occupa un corpo nello spazio e sta dentro di noi come i denti nella bocca. Non si può impunemente violentarla all’infinito.”