THE THREE WORLDS OF BORIS PASTERNAK by Robert Payne

THE THREE WORLDS OF BORIS PASTERNAK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Payne, in almost his most prolific year (three new books this season are scheduled), has gathered all the presently known facts about Pasternak's life in a curiously unsatisfactory biography. It diminishes rather than enhances its subject. The ""three worlds"" of the title refer to Pasternak as poet, novelist and politician. This in itself seems a mistake since Pasternak took only the slightest part in the great political upheavals of his time. True, he welcomed the early revolution, recognized some greatness in Lenin, but soon turned away from the excesses of the revolution and particularly abhorred Stalin. The great message of his work seems to be that in spite of the gravest upheavals, the life-force goes on, and its deepest values, religious and poetical, prevail, and must be articulated. This is the meaning of Doctor Zhivago. As for Pasternak, the poet, Payne, in spite of his familiarity with Russian, has not succeeded in conveying these poems in English any more vividly than others who have tried. The fact is that no Russian poetry since Pushkin has been satisfactorily rendered in English- and Pasternak's poetry, rooted as it was in the symbolist tradition of Rilke and Mallarme, resists translation grudgingly. The Russians remain an enigma. They come alive in the artistry of Tolstoy, Turgenev or Chekov, but more ambiguous writers- such as Pasternak- escape definition and interpretation. Certainly Payne's, where enthusiasm for his subject does not supplant real insight.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1961
Publisher: Coward-McCann