A VANISHED PRESENT: The Memoirs of Alexander Pasternak by Alexander Pasternak

A VANISHED PRESENT: The Memoirs of Alexander Pasternak

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Alexander Pasternak (1893-1982) was three years younger than writer-brother Boris, an architect rather than a poet. Understandably, then, these recollections of Pasternak family-life are especially strong in visual evocations of turn-of-the-century Moscow--with keen attention to space and design: ""From the side of the park and garden was constructed an even more emphatic symmetry pinning the entire composition, both palace and park, to a central pivot."" But, at the same time, Alexander is more prone to ""poetic"" (or at least flowery) nostalgia than was poet Boris--as made clear by editor Slater's intelligent use of contrasting excerpts from Boris' two autobiographical volumes, Safe Conductor and An Essay in Autobiography. There are effusive, effective conjurings-up: the pomp of the Moscow fire brigades; the ice in the river breaking up like schools of Leviathans; the beauty and ease of snow in a horse-drawn society. There are also short portraits of the Pasternak parents, of the family's artistic enterprises, of Mayakovsky and Isadora Duncan and Scriabin. (""I instantly knew that his fingers elicited the music not by dropping down on the keys and striking them. . . but by lightly pulling his fingers free of the keyboard. You had the complete illusion that he was drawing out of the piano a sequence of sounds constant in their light curt force."") So, though there is little here--aside from a younger brother's quiet, confident admiration--about Boris the fledgling artist, this impressionistic memoir is a modestly valuable addition to the Pasternak portrait (see also father Leonid's Memoirs, 1983) of pre-Revolutionary Russia.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1985
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich