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Paperback Doctor Zhivago Book

ISBN: 0307390950

ISBN13: 9780307390950

Doctor Zhivago

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Book Overview

First published in Italy in 1957 amid international controversy, Doctor Zhivago is the story of the life and loves of a poet/physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Taking his family from Moscow to what he hopes will be shelter in the Ural Mountains, Zhivago finds himself instead embroiled in the battle between the Whites and the Reds. Set against this backdrop of cruelty and strife is Zhivago's love for the tender and beautiful Lara,...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

Sad to say I found it lacking.

I really thought such a timeless love story would be much, much richer. While I enjoyed the book, it didn't grip me like I had hoped it would. It is a beautiful story but I imagine it would be difficult to get through if you aren't a pretty seasoned reader.

An Unconventional Romance

Doctor Zhivago has, in the years since its secret publication in Italy, been called a timeless love story. However, even though this may be true, it does not follow the usual type of a love story which begins with the meeting of two lovers and then ends happily with their marriage or a comparable event. Instead the author, Russian poet Boris Pasternak, writes the love story between Yury Zhivago and Lara Antipova, two characters who were already married to others. In this, Doctor Zhivago is a palpable commentary on marital infidelity. This has, in the past, lead this beautifully worked novel to be shunned as controversial or immoral. However, despite the fact that Pasternak chooses such a difficult theme to work with in his novel, he validates and creates sympathy for Yury, Lara, and their affair with his usage of characterization, symbolism, and appeals to pathos. Pasternak's characterizations of the two principle female characters play a huge role in winning the audience's sympathy for Lara and her plight. Yury's wife Tonya is, essentially, a flat character; throughout the book she remains devoted to Yury and her children; she conforms to the social norms both before and after the revolution takes place where Pasternak's more dynamic characters all experience a change because of it. Additionally, Pasternak makes it difficult to connect to Tonya by keeping her essentially out of sight throughout the novel; the only time the audience reads of her feelings is in a letter, and consequently, is indirect. In fact, all of the audience's experience of Tonya is indirect; we see her through Zhivago's descriptions or conversations about her, but never as just herself. This distance from Tonya is furthered by Yury's lack of identification with Tonya; he always feels spiritually apart from his wife. A sharp contrast is Lara, whose poignant thoughts and feelings can be read from nearly the beginning of the story, and who, despite having extremely nonconformist tendencies like political activeness, maintenance of a job even into her married years, and an insistence to assist in the WWI war effort, is portrayed more warmly than any of the other characters in the novel. She is given the endearing Tonya-like qualities of devotion to family (it is the emergence of her husband Pasha as the merciless revolutionary Strelnikov that leads to their separation) and the nonconformist attributes which make her such a fascinating character. The audience is also made to see Lara as a character worthy of the kind of love she has with Yury because of the tragic nature of her previous intimate relationship as a teenager with the aging lawyer Komarovsky, which can be described as nothing less than parasitic. As Lara later says to Yury, "There is something broken in my whole life. I discovered life much too early, I was made to discover it, and I was made to see it from the very worse side--a cheap, distorted version of it--through the eyes of a self-assured, elderly parasite, w

The flaws are much of what makes it so great.

I read Zhivago for the first time in high school. I loved it, but didn't pick it up again for 20 years. I was surprised to find it rough going at the beginning. When I had first read the book, it had been precisely the first 100 or so pages that had enchanted me and pulled me into the novel. This time around, it was the complex and often frustrating last half of the book that really moved me. I guess this is a measure of how the book grows with the reader. Doctor Zhivago is a complicated book that seems to me largely about how people get involved with circumstances (politics, love affairs) that do not interest them, simply because life leaves them vulnerable. That makes for a strange reading experience, because it is not a message that wraps itself up neatly. The texture of the novel is in part about ends-- loose ends, dead ends, character cul-de-sacs. A more experienced author wouldn't have tried to work this theme out in prose using the same methods that Pasternak employed. The book rolls from melodrama to nearly documentary realism. He uses diary form, letters, even poetry to complete the work. I guess it was his lack of experience that allowed him to (very nearly) achieve the impossible. The feeling of the book is an awful lot like life. There are certainly more polished and perfect novels and novelists out there. Doctor Zhivago would not have profited from their example. As the title of this review says, Zhivago is great precisely because it isn't perfect. It is a great sprawling messy wonderful world of a book. Recommended for readers of all ages.

Art is always meditating upon death and thereby creating life

Dr. Zhivago's ideal life `escape into freedom out of all sorrows' contrasts sharply with the horrors of war and revolution around him: `the ruthless logic of mutual extermination.' As a doctor he is daily confronted with `survivors whom the technique of modern fighting had turned into lumps of mutilated flesh.' Red and White atrocities rivaled each other in savagery. After the Reds won the civil war, `the old oppression of the tsarist state was replaced by a much harsher yoke of the revolutionary superstate led by the professionals, the Bolsheviks, and their false sympathizers, informers, intrigues and hatred.' Their Marxist policies are severely criticized: `Marxism is not sufficiently master of itself. Ordinary people are anxious to test their theories in practice, to learn from experience, but those who wield power are so anxious to establish the myth of their own infallibility that they turn their back on truth.' Dr. Zhivago with his independent mind and love for humanity highly understands that nothing can be gained from violence: childhood friends fight each other in the name of their truth, `man is a wolf to man'; `stranger meeting stranger killed for fear of being killed.' Under the totalitarian system, he feels bitterly `the loss of faith in the value of personal opinion. Instead of being natural and spontaneous, something artificial, forced, crept into our conversation; falsehood had crept into our lives.' Boris Pasternak's book is a profound meditation on life and death, love and hate, personal commitment and mass ideology, freedom and slavery, war and peace. The fate of the main characters and the crossings of their lives within the upheavals provoked by war, revolution and totalitarianism are masterfully painted and heart-rending. This magically written and brilliantly built novel is an eternal masterpiece. It stands in sharp contrast with the extreme vulgarity of the anti-Pasternak campaign in the USSR after Pasternak was awarded the Nobel prize (see I. Kadaré's `Le Crépuscule des Dieux de la Steppe'). A must read.

A historic and poetic love epic

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak is quite remarkably a poet's novel: the writer was a poet, and hence each page is full of beautiful imagery, metaphors and word play. The protagonist is a poet, the novel revolves around his love and life in the first half of twentieth century Russia. The reader, by association, has to be a poet to really relish the saga. It is one of those novels from last century that everyone must read. The ghosts of socialism and Marxism, the excesses that occured in name of revolution, the transformation of the largest country of the world from ceturies old system into a failed ideal: the novel has enough historical significance. Last century was guided, molded, scarred, decorated and defined by the events and ideas that crop up as part of Doctor Zhivago's life. The literary underpinnings are gigantic: a love story with the Russian Revolution as background score: a Nobel was the least he could have got. Besides the historical perspective, the story itself is a delightful one. The homely Tonya, Dr Zhivago's wife and first love and mother of his children, the sensuous Lara who weaves into and out of Yuri (Dr Zhivago's) life, her husband Pasha Antipov, who at every junction of his life must fight against ghosts and demons of his wife's past and present and in attempt outclass himself, the Uncle Koyla, the intellectual: the list is unending. Characters are crafted from all sections of society, making this novel a representation of whole society at that time. Like Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, the novel provides four or five chief characters, who are immense in their own potrayal, parting with their thoughts, ideas, ideals and philosophies, and possessing unique well-defined characteristics, the novel has another string of about twenty characters who are unforgettable for whatever roles they are assigned. The harshness of winter, the beauty of forests and fields, the man divided in his love for wife Tonya and lover Lara, the poet in exile, the idealists seeking to change the world, Russian history and customs: such ideas find Pasternak displaying hs poetic prowess. Many passages in the book are sheer poetry, and I am amazed at seeing how powerful they are in translated language: I wish I knew Russian to find out how delightful the original must have been. It is a long novel, with graphic pleasant and unpleasant sequences and a writing style where its apparent that either because it is a translation or ther writer was a poet attempting prose, the writing is not a easy read. Requires lot of time and effort and most people prefer the movie that was made in 1965 or so. I think reading Doctor Zhivago is an experience in itself, and in this post cold war era, it contains the perspective and historical lessons that we all must know and understand. An excerpt that presents a preview of all the things this novel incorporates into the love saga of Yuri, where his heart is in strife in his love for two women as is it in strife witnesses

An amazing work of imagery hidden in a simple story

Doctor Zhivago is a work of greatness. It paints a picture so vivid, so real, that you can't help but see it. Boris Pasternak's greatest work, Zhivago won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958. That he was forced by the Soviet Government to not accept that prize is just another testament to his writing. His life was filled with censure from the government, and he was looked down upon by his people. Doctor Zhivago was rejected by Soviet publishers as counter-revolutionary, and was subsequently smuggled out to Italy where it was originally published in the Russian language. It was not published in Russia until 1988. All this controversy could not have been generated by a lesser book. Pasternak's style of writing is one to provoke thought: rather than social issues running his characters, it was rather love, faith and destiny that did so. Social issues were considered by Pasternak to be important only in so far as they influence individual human destiny. This style can only be successful with the inclusion of powerful metaphors and intellectual conversations and thoughts; the author does all this and more. Doctor Zhivago takes place in Russia during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the civil war that followed. This is a time of extreme poverty, and Dr. Yury Andreyevich Zhivago decides to move him and his family out of Moscow and into the country. It also follows the life of Larissa Fyodorovna Guishar (subsequently Antipova), another Moscow native who also finds herself in the country, away from the disease and destitution. The book covers the many chance (or destined) encounters these two characters have had over the years: a party in Moscow, serving together at the front (he as a doctor and she as a nurse) as well as meeting again in the small town of Yuryatin. Yury was an intelligent man. He was of course a doctor, and he was a writer as well (over 30 pages of poems written by him are included in this novel). He is a man of intense feeling, he sees things like we all would like to be able to see. He is highly philosophical, constantly pursuing the meaning of life (much, I suspect, like Pasternak himself). Lara, who becomes his mistress, does not see everything like he does. He loves her for that, and jumps at the chance to be able to recite poetry to her, to educate her in his version of life. But Lara is not stupid. She understands what the revolution means: "Everything established, settled, everything to do with home and order and the common round, has crumbled into dust and 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." Yury and Lara try to shelter themselves from the turmoil going on around them in the civil war that followed the revolution. Yet through all this Yury still sees the beauty of life, the reasons for trying to hold on to a single moment, and to try and make this last. Doct

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