The Zhivago Affair

The Zhivago Affair

The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over A Forbidden Book

Book - 2015
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Random House, Inc.

The Zhivago Affair is the dramatic, never-before-told story—drawing on newly declassified files—of how a forbidden book became a secret CIA weapon in the ideological battle between East and West.

In May 1956, an Italian publishing scout went to a village outside Moscow to visit Russia’s greatest living poet, Boris Pasternak. He left carrying the manuscript of Pasternak’s only novel, suppressed by Soviet authorities. From there the life of this extraordinary book entered the realm of the spy novel. The CIA published a Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago and smuggled it into the Soviet Union. Copies were devoured in Moscow and Leningrad, sold on the black market, and passed from friend to friend. Pasternak’s funeral in 1960 was attended by thousands who defied their government to bid him farewell, and his example launched the great tradition of the Soviet writer-dissident. First to obtain CIA files providing proof of the agency’s involvement, Peter Finn and Petra Couvée take us back to a remarkable Cold War era when literature had the power to stir the world.

(With 8 pages of black-and-white illustrations.)

Baker & Taylor
Draws on unique access to classified CIA files to document the role of Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago in promoting American Cold War agendas in the 1950s, revealing how the CIA helped publish the Soviet-banned book in Russian to an enthusiastic black-market audience. 35,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2015
Edition: First Vintage Books edition
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780345803191
Branch Call Number: 891.7342 FINN
Characteristics: 352 pages, 16 pages of unnumbered plates : illustrations ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Couvée, Petra


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Dec 12, 2017

Interesting read but definitely not a page turner. In addition to information regarding the CIA attempting to influence public opinion and Soviet citizens in particular, there are interesting tidbits regarding life and living in the Soviet Union. Dr Zhivago is a classic movie, and this book provides information on how Boris Pasternak came to write the book and the reaction of Soviet authorities.

Sep 01, 2015

The title may be a bit misleading: Cold War clashes between the Kremlin and the CIA form a very small part of this book. In reality, it's a biography of Boris Pasternak and a journalistic account of the artistic repression imposed by the Stalinist and post-Stalinist Soviet regimes in the 1950s and that continued through the 1970s. While the vehemence with which the regime persecuted Pasternak for what they perceived as an anti-Soviet novel clearly revealed to the western world the state of fear that drove the Kremlin to act as it did, and though they were never really successful in suppressing the work, none of that relieved Pasternak and his family and small circle of closest friends from the effects of the Kremlin's vicious, unrelenting attacks. Perhaps the most outrageous of all was the dreadful punishment that continued to be visited upon Pasternak's lover Olga Ivinskaya and her young daughter Irina after Pasternak's death, ostensibly for illegal currency trading (i.e. having helped Pasternak to smuggle in some money from abroad to support his family while he was prevented from earning a living) but really out of spite and in an attempt to further discredit anyone who had supported Pasternak in any way.
The final irony is surely that Khruschchev, having read "Doctor Zhivago" after his ouster a few years later concluded that "We shouldn't have banned it. There's nothing anti-Soviet in it."

Oct 23, 2014

P. 43

ChristchurchLib Aug 06, 2014

Doctor Zhivago, a novel published in translation during the late 1950s by Russian author Boris Pasternak, created a sensation in the West with its negative depiction of the Russian Revolution. The CIA recognized that the book could promote anti-communist sentiment within the Soviet Union, so they arranged to produce copies of the original Russian text and sneak them into Russia. The Zhivago Affair relates the exciting story of how the book-smuggling was accomplished, the severe consequences the Kremlin imposed on Pasternak and his family, and the international controversy aroused by the novel. Publishers Weekly calls this a "triumphant reminder that truth is sometimes gloriously stranger than fiction." History and current events newsletter August 2014.

Jul 26, 2014

how the Soviets pinned Boris Pasternak on the crucifix of Communism, how ideologies, secular or religious, crush inexorably the human spirit, though sometimes its poetry, like a phoenix, is resurrected to inspire, in a masterpiece


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