Another Soviet literary taboo is shelved
Boris Pasternak's ``Doctor Zhivago,'' long banned in the Soviet Union, will be published here by next year, says poet Andrei Voznesensky. ``If it is serialized in journals, it will probably come out this year,'' he predicted in a recent interview. ``If it is published as a book, next year.''
Mr. Voznesensky heads a commission set up by the Soviet Writers' Union to commemorate Pasternak. The 30-member group was set up just before the New Year, and includes some of the most prominent representatives of Soviet arts and letters: pianist Sviatoslav Richter, actor Mikhail Ulyanov, theater director Mark Zakharov, and poets Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Bella Akhmadulina.
The gradual rehabilitation of Pasternak - and the final admission that the 'emigr'e Vladimir Nabokov was one of the century's great writers - mean that most Soviet literary taboos are slowly disappearing. But the appearance of ``Doctor Zhivago'' may also reopen old conflicts in the Russian literary world.
The literary historian and critic Dmitri Likhachev has already written a foreword to the novel, Voznesensky said. This may be published ahead of the book, either in a literary journal, or perhaps in Ogonek, the weekly magazine that has become one of the liveliest publications in the Soviet Union.
Groups such as the current Pasternak commission are usually formed shortly after a writer's death. In the case of Pasternak, who died in 1960, and of several others, such as the poets Osip Mandelshtam and Marina Tsvetaeva, the process has taken much longer. Mandelshtam died in one of Joseph Stalin's prison camps in 1938. Tsvetaeva committed suicide in 1941.
Voznesensky says the Pasternak commission will not be like other literary commissions - ``boring, dry, and small.'' There will be ``happenings,'' perhaps rock concerts and open-air readings of Pasternak's poetry. Voznesensky talks of books about Pasternak, to appear by the 100th anniversary of the writer's birth in 1990. And Voznesensky says he expects there to be a Pasternak street or Pasternak square here.
At the moment, he says, the commission is fighting hard to turn Pasternak's dacha (summer house) in Peredelkino, a writer's colony just outside Moscow, into a museum. The Writers' Union is dragging its feet over this, he says.
At last year's congress of the Writers' Union, several prominent literary figures called for a Pasternak museum to be established. Since then, Voznesensky claims, the union and the Ministry of Culture have been trying to turn the Pasternak house into a literary museum for ``all [modern] writers.'' Voznesensky and some of his colleagues are opposing this: ``There were many good writers, but Pasternak was a genius.''
On the anniversary of Pasternak's death, May 30, the commission will organize a poetry reading in Pasternak's dacha, Voznesensky says.
Part of the problem with the Pasternak house lies in the fact that it does not belong to his family. It was rented from the Writers' Union, and by law reverts to the union two years after a writer's death. Voznesensky suggested that the Culture Fund might buy the house and turn it into a museum. The fund, established last year by the government, aims to increase public awareness of Russian literature and culture. One of its board members is Raisa Gorbachev, wife of the Soviet leader.
Admiration for Pasternak's poetry and translations - of Shakespeare, Goethe, and the French poet Paul Verlaine, among many others - persisted even after he was subjected to vicious attacks by his colleagues following the publication abroad of ``Doctor Zhivago,'' and his award of the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature. The publication of the book here, however, is bound to recall the attacks on Pasternak that followed its publication in the West.
The attacks were carefully orchestrated. Pasternak was expelled from the Writers' Union and forced to renounce the Nobel Prize. Many of those who denounced him in the crudest terms are still alive and active. Pasternak's longtime mistress, Olga Ivinskaya, names a number of prominent figures who were involved in the campaign. These include the writer Vladimir Soloukhin, who is still active, and Georgi Markov, who headed the Writers' Union from 1971 until last June. She also recalls that Yevtushenko and some others refused to join the denunciations.
Voznesensky hints that reopening the history of this period could be quite embarrassing for well-known figures in the current literary world. ``A lot of today's very liberal people made very terrible speeches about him,'' he said. ``No one abstained.'' He refused to cite any names.
But ``Zhivago'' may disappoint Soviet readers, Voznesensky feels.
``For many years, people have been led to expect a very political and very anti-Soviet book.''
It is a great book, Voznesensky feels, but neither political nor anti-Soviet. ``It's a new genre, a lyrical novel.''