When Pasternak had to decline the Nobel Prize

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.”

45 thoughts on “When Pasternak had to decline the Nobel Prize

  1. Pasternak e Dostoevskij sono i miei autori preferiti, conoscevano profondamente l’animo umano, quasi avessero vissuto più di una vita…
    “Il sistema nervoso non è un vuoto suono, o un’invenzione.” permettimi di ribloggare quest’ultima citazione.
    Grazie Luisa

    Liked by 3 people

  2. qunati ricordi il dottor Zivago! mi ricordo che la lettura non era stat semplice con tutti quei nomi e personaggi, ogni tanto dovevo tornare indietro a controllare! belle le frasi che hai messo molto davvero! come sempre puntuale a bravissima! buona serata

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is such a fascinating moment in the history of literature. Especially the way the manuscript was smuggled out of the country and later smuggled back into the country in book form. The quotes show that Pasternak was also a gifted poet 💕

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Then, viva Italia, I’d say 😊👍 You have waked up a wonderful memory in my mind, thank you, dearest Luisa💖😘🙏
    PS; I was not sure if I was successful as well by the translation of your latest post; you have used the word, Riso as it means rice, but I had to search more for the definitions and found also the meaning Laughter and I’ve chosen it. was I right or…?

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Cara Luisa ho voluto fare un esperimento con la poesia “la bara”. Ritengo che non sia male (modesto) ma il titolo allontanava. Eppure quante persone oggi vogliono fotografare cadaveri purché non siano morti naturalmente. Io scrivo sempre per strappare un sorriso ma tramite ironia. Mi fa piacere che hai compreso magari avendo anche tu legittime perplessità.🙋

        Liked by 1 person

  5. per me, leggere, queste frasi è, ancora una volta, tutt’uno col pensare che la sensibilità degli autori russi è direttamente proporzionale alla loro capacità di viversi come uomini e nel loro tuffarsi e sprofondare nel “homo sum, nihil humani…”

    Liked by 1 person

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