You may remember the 1965 classic Film Doctor Zhivago, with a charismatic and aquiline-profiled Omar Sharif and a wholesome, tow-headed Julie Christie in a beautifully scored and heart-rending love triangle set in the early Soviet Union. A gorgeous film by all accounts. Now forget about all that. The main character in Doctor Zhivago is Russia, and its centerpiece is the desperation of its citizens; famine, war, imprisonment, pride, and poetry. And yeah, there's a love story, too. In the newish translation by husband and wife duo Pevear and Volokhonsky (my favorite Russian translators) what struck me is the sense of the language I've never gotten with other translations. Dr. Yuri Zhivago is not only a doctor but a poet, and the novel comes complete with a smattering of poems that, side by side, are much more subtle and descriptive yet accessible to English-speakers. This edition also comes with a handy-dandy glossary that gives descriptions of words, places, and events for us American bourgeois imperialists who aren't too 1917-savvy. This book is incredibly human; I could feel the characters breathing, hear the bubbling of the samovar on my nightstand. I felt the hope for a future free of Tsarist horrors, and the crushing disappointment when those hopes were trampled by Bolshevik jackboots. A perfect novel for the winter, and a great introduction to Russian Literature.
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, the very embodiment of the pain and chaos of those cataclysmic times. Pevear and Volokhonsky masterfully restore the spirit of Pasternak's original--his style, rhythms, voicings, and tone--in this beautiful translation of a classic of world literature.