Boris Pasternak and the CIA

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

The Danish daily Morgenavis-Jyllandsposten (famous for those “Danish cartoons” a few years back) and its Moscow correspondent Niels Jürgensen have what looks like to be an exclusive concerning an interesting slice of Cold War history: CIA stood behind Pasternak’s Nobel Prize. That would be the Nobel Prize for Literature for the year 1958, awarded to the Russian author Boris Pasternak basically on the strength of his magnum opus, the novel Doctor Zhivago.

You’re probably more aware of this work in the form of the 1965 movie, starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. I never saw it myself (nor, alas, have read the book yet), but am given to understand that the film played up the lovey-dovey aspects of the tale so that the sharp criticisms it contained of the take-over of power in Russia by the Bolsheviks of 1917 and their rule since then were pushed somewhat to the margins. But it was just that criticism, from a native writer of note, that made the publication of Doctor Zhivago in the West, and especially its winning its author a Nobel Prize, such a propaganda coup against the Soviet Union back during those intense Cold War days. (more…)

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