THE CORRESPONDENCE OF BORIS PASTERNAK AND OLGA FREIDENBERG: 1910-1954 by Elliott--Ed. Mossman
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THE CORRESPONDENCE OF BORIS PASTERNAK AND OLGA FREIDENBERG: 1910-1954

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Olga Freidenberg's mother was a sister to Pasternak's painter-father Leonid; hence Olga and Boris were first cousins. And Olga was a scholar in her own right: daughter of a prolific and largely unsung inventor-father, she showed intellectual vivacity early on, which led in time to a serious academic career in literature and ancient-civilization studies; eventually she would even be made a department chairman at the Leningrad Institute. Yet in her diary excerpts here, as well as in the letters, we are allowed an extraordinarily close look at the perversions of thought that shoot through the Stalinist era: the purges, the corrections of Party lines, the destruction of people. It is a bitter tale--Freidenberg, her work never published, was in the end a defeated woman. And it's all the more remarkable when contrasted with the letters of her cousin ""Borya,"" because--through domestic storms (two wives, a mistress, Olga's own youthful crush), the years of scratching out a living with translations, the intermittent periods of official disfavor--Pasternak is always the optimist and life-lover. Moreover, he always manages to land on his feet--nowhere better illustrated than in the contrast between Olga's devastating description of famine during the siege of Leningrad and Boris' much more comfortable war time. In fact, though a few early letters of 1910 map out Pasternak's poetics succinctly and wonderfully, it's the Olga/Boris interplay which is most remarkable here: her despair constantly runs up against his joy, yet they understand each other perfectly, they are good mutual foils, and they are generous with each other's best qualities. One of the few correspondence volumes, then, where dissimilar people together achieve a whole representation of intelligence and bravery--and mandatory reading for anyone fascinated by Pasternak or by the beleaguered life-of-the-mind during the harshest Soviet years.

Pub Date: May 14th, 1982
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich