OPINION

December 1, 1957

PASTERNAK: «If the whole world was covered in asphalt, somewhere a crack would appear and grass would start growing.» That prophecy by the Soviet writer and propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg applies to Boris Pasternak, considered the greatest writer and poet in Russia today. Pasternak is one of the few intellectuals to survive Stalin’s 20-year rule, only because he believed in the truth of the saying «silence is golden.» Because he was criticized by the authorities for his excessive individualism, he has been able to publish two collections of poetry and translations of Western poets such as Goethe, Shakespeare and Verlaine. In 1953, after Stalin’s death, the first cracks in the Soviet «asphalt» appeared and Pasternak wrote his first novel. Last year however, the grass had grown so high in Hungary and Poland that the Kremlin made desperate attempts to cover the cracks… Pasternak received the order to «revise» his book, «Dr Zhivago,» considered the greatest achievement in Russian literature since Tolstoy thanks to the Italian publisher Feltrinelli, a communist with an open mind who had obtained the manuscript before the Hungarian revolution. It was the first «banned» Soviet novel to reach the West.