MEETINGS WITH PASTERNAK: A Memoir by Alexander Gladkov


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Completed in the mid-Sixties, this samizdat remembrance of Pasternak was written by a playwright who began to copy down the poet's conversation while the two of them were billeted, along with many other Moscow writers, in Christopol, in the Tartar, during the Second World War. Gladkov is no Boswell, but then Pasternak's not Dr. Johnson; except for a few comments on originality and stylistic innovation, most of the observations and mots are pretty tame, the Nobelist coming off like St. Francis of Assisi: meek, innocent, persistent. Of incidental but compelling note here is the unspoken reality of the Russian writer than even a comparative backbencher like Gladkov had to endure: capricious approval, then the stunning suddenness of imprisonment. And even more interesting is editor-translator Max Hayward's introduction, in which he uneasily discusses Pasternak's remarkable survival when all his peers fell to harsh fates and presents a collar-tugging argument for not considering Dr. Zhivago a failure. The questions raised about Pasternak in Nadezhda Mandelstam's towering memoirs, Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned, are hardly answered here, but at least the discussion is continued.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1977
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich