In the old Soviet Russia one of the more outrageous features of life was that their greatest creative writers for years were barred from publishing in their own native land. Among those so barred was Boris Pasternak.
It is hard to imagine that the Government of a great empire could show such heavy-handed stupidity and Philistinism as to ban one of the marvellous creative artists of the age from publication in his own country. But that is what happened to Boris Pasternak, the poet of burning beauty, in his Russia. Throughout his career Pasternak, born in l890, had trouble with the authorities. His great stature as a poet was recognised early and the state would have liked to tame and recruit his genius. “They kept making a fuss of me,” Pasternak wrote, “and sending me on foreign trips. I could have written any filth or trash and they would have published it ……I wanted to write something honest and genuine in honour of the society which was so kind to me, but this would only have been possible if I had been willing to write something false.
When his novel, Doctor Zhivago, profoundly beautiful and defying Soviet orthodoxy, was smuggled out of the country for publication and won the Nobel Prize for Pasternak in l958, state persecution was seriously stepped up. To protect those close to him, Pasternak had to reject the Nobel Prize. He was threatened with expulsion from his own country and it was only through the vigorous intervention of Pandit Nehru, India’s Prime Minister, that this threat was averted. However, all publications of even his translations came to a halt and he was deprived of his livelihood. He became a non-person in the great land he loved so much…..