Doctor Zhivago (1957)

[Doctor Zhivago]

Boris Pasternak
Doctor Zhivago (1957)


It seemed as if these tear-drenched words clung together of themselves and connected into a soft, quick, gentle patter, as when silky, moist leaves rustle, tangled by the wind.

'So here we are again, Yurochka. The way God brings us together. How terrible, think of it! Oh, I can't bear it! Oh, Lord! I cry and I cry! Think of it! Again something just our kind, just up our street. Your going, that's the end of me. Again something big, inescapable. The riddle of life, the riddle of death, the beauty of genius, the beauty of loving-that, yes, that we understood. As for such petty trifles as re-shaping the world-these things, no thank you, they are not for us.

'Good-bye, my big one, my dear one, my own, my pride. Good-bye, my quick, deep river, how I loved your day-long plashing, how I loved bathing in your cold, deep waves.

'Remember how we said good-bye that day, in all that snow?

"What a trick you played on me! Could I ever have gone without you? Oh, I know, I know, you forced yourself to do it, you thought it was for my good. And after that everything went wrong. What I had to put up with out there, Lord, what I went through! But of course you don't know any of that. Oh, what have I done, Yura, what have I done! I am such a criminal, you have no idea. But it wasn't my fault. I was ill in hospital for three months, a whole month I was unconscious. And since then my life isn't worth living, Yura. My heart has no peace, I can't live for pity and misery. But then I'm not telling you the most important thing. I can't say it, I haven't the strength. Every time I come to that part of my life I can't go on, my hair stands on end, it's so terrible. And you know, I'm not even sure I'm quite normal any more. But you see, I haven't taken to drink as so many people do-I'm keeping off that, because a drunken woman, that really is the end of everything, it's impossible, isn't it?”

She went on speaking and weeping and tormenting herself, but suddenly she looked up and was astonished to see that the room had long been crowded and full of bustle. She got down from the foot­stool and moved away from the coffin, swaying, pressing the flat of her hand to her eyes as if to get rid of the tears she had not finished weeping, and to shake them off on to the floor with her fingers.

Six. men came up to the coffin, lifted it and carried it out ..

Lara stayed several days in Kamerger Street. The sorting out of Yury's papers was begun with her help but finished without her. She also had her talk with Yevgraf and told him an important fact.

One day Lara went out and did not come back. She must have been arrested in the street, as so often happened in those days, and she died or vanished somewhere, forgotten as a nameless number on a list which was afterwards mislaid, in one of the innumerable mixed or women's concentration camps in the north.

– Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago, 1957. Trans Max Hayward & Manya Harari. 1958 (London: Collins Harvill, 1959): 443-44.

Critical Responses:

"I did not read Pasternak, but I condemn him." - Russian proverb.

"Immensely thankful, touched, proud, astonished, abashed." - Boris Pasternak, on receiving the news of his 1958 Nobel Prize for literature.

"Considering the meaning this award has been given in the society to which I belong, I must refuse it. Please do not take offense at my voluntary rejection." - Boris Pasternak, four days later.

Doctor Zhivago (1965)
directed by David Lean
screenplay by Robert Bolt
starring Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin & Alec Guinness


Komarovski: Who are you to refuse my sugar? Who are you to refuse me anything?

Komarovski: I think you do.

Komarovski: There are two kinds of men and only two. And that young man is one kind. He is high-minded. He is pure. He's the kind of man the world pretends to look up to, and in fact despises. He is the kind of man who breeds unhappiness, particularly in women. Do you understand?

... There's another kind. Not high-minded, not pure, but alive. Now, that your tastes at this time should incline towards the juvenile is understandable; but for you to marry that boy would be a disaster. Because there's two kinds of women. There are two kinds of women and you, as we well know, are not the first kind. You, my dear, are a slut.

Engineer: If they were to give me two more excavators, I'd be a year ahead of the plan by now.
Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: You're an impatient generation.
Engineer: Weren't you?
Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Yes, we were, very. Oh, don't be so impatient, Comrade Engineer. We've come very far, very fast.
Engineer: Yes, I know that, Comrade General.
Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Yes, but do you know what it cost? There were children in those days who lived off human flesh. Did you know that?

[last lines]
Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Tonya! Can you play the balalaika?
David: Can she play? She's an artist!
Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Who taught you?
David: Nobody taught her!
Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Ah... then it's a gift.

Unknown: The doctor's a gentleman.
The Bolshevik: Right! It's written all over him.
Unknown: He's a good man.
The Bolshevik: God rot good men.
[Lara silently stares in loathing at the Bolshevik]

Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: I told myself it was beneath my dignity to arrest a man for pilfering firewood. But nothing ordered by the party is beneath the dignity of any man, and the party was right: one man desperate for a bit of fuel is pathetic; five million people desperate for a bit of fuel will destroy a city. That was the first time I ever saw by brother, but I knew him and I knew I would disobey the party. Perhaps it was the tie of blood between us, but I doubt it. We were only half-tied anyway. Indeed as a policeman I would say, get hold of a man's brother and you're halfway home. Nor was it admiration for a better man than me. I did admire him, but I didn't think he was the better man. Besides, I've executed better men than me with a small pistol.

Pasha: I used to admire your poetry.
Zhivago: Thank you.
Pasha: I shouldn't admire it now. I should find it absurdly personal. Don't you agree? Feelings, insights, affections... it's suddenly trivial now. You don't agree; you're wrong. The personal life is dead in Russia. History has killed it. I can see why you might hate me.
Zhivago: I hate everything you say, but not enough to kill you for it.

Gromeko: [reading newspaper] They've shot the Czar. And all his family. What's it for?
Zhivago: It's to show there's no going back.

Critical Responses:

"I can't remember the origin of the quote, but I remember it distinctly. A Communist Party official of the Soviet Union, justifying the Bolshevik destruction of Tsarist Russia, told a foreign observer, `If you want to make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs.' The visitor replied, `I see the broken eggs, but Where's the omelet?' Dr. Zhivago is set at the time when the Bolsheviks, feverishly ideological, were creating their socialist state. The epochal drama that unfolds is the age-old question about whether the ends justify the means.

As materialists (matter precedes spirit, not vice versa), the Bolsheviks believed that they had found the holy grail of human progress in Marxism-Leninism, and were now able to assume the reins of history in their own hands. They believed that their violence was not only justified, but necessary, oblivious to the fact that they, too, somehow felt the angel of medieval teleology smiling over their shoulders.

In contrast to the Bolsheviks, Zhivago's ethos, if he had one, was almost identical to Kant's `categorical imperative,' which had just one axiom: treat people as ends in themselves, and not as ends to a mean. There couldn't be a sharper moral contrast.

There's a fabulous scene midway through the movie that highlights the difference in moral attitude. Dr. Zhivago confronts a communist functionary who has ordered the destruction of a village, a hamlet suspected of aiding the Mensheviks by selling them horses. To the Bolsheviks, if you weren't 100 percent behind them, you were a `counterrevolutionary,' sorta like Dubya's idea that you're either for us, or against us. And so Strelnikov, the passionate Bolshevik, glibly justifies his actions to Dr. Zhivago as easy as if he were tossing his hair aside, saying that the annihilation of the village, however cruel, is necessary to make a point. Zhivago replies: `Your point; their village.'

I love this film, a timeless epic. If there's a more beautiful heroine in all of movie-making history than Julie Christie (Lara), I'm not aware of it. And Omar Sharif is stunning as Iuri Zhivago, who heals the body with emetics, scalpels, antiseptic, and gauze, while he heals the soul with his poetry. Although the movie is three hours and 20 minutes long, the cinematography is so efficient, evocative, and densely layered that one hardly notices. This is, in my opinion, one of the best films of all time." - Internet Movie Database.

Doctor Zhivago (2002)
directed by Giacomo Campiotti
screenplay by Andrew Davies
starring Keira Knightly, Hans Matheson & Sam Neill


Yuri [to Professor]: I'll be a doctor for others, and a poet for myself.

Yuri: It's all a mystery. Love - the idea that there is someone already there in the world who might hold the key to your whole existence.

Tonya: [voiceover] My dear Yury, it feels so strange to be writing this to you, not knowing whether you are dead or alive. Do you know that we have a little daughter? We have christened her Masha, in memory of your mother. Yury, we are being deported. My father has fallen out of favor. I don't know whether they will let you come, too, or if you want to come or even if you are alive. But I must believe you are and hope that you receive this and come to find us one day. God keep you. I must stop. They are here. I must pray that we shall all be safe, but it feels... as if they had come to take us to our death. Oh, Yury. Goodbye, my love. Goodbye. Let me make the sign of the cross over you and bless you for all the years ahead. I am not blaming you for anything. Make your life as you wish. Only that you are all right. Tonya.

Misha Gordon: [to Lara] These are yours. His poems. We're all in there, all our lives, all these terrible times. But most of all, you.

Lara: I was hoping you wouldn't remember me. I don't think I made a good impression upon you before.
Yuri: You made an impression.

Yuri [to Lara]: I wish, I wish I could live two lives. My own, and to see you well and happy. To know you weren't in need of anything. I'm sure you'll find someone you could be happy with. Of course I'd want to knock his teeth out.

Strelnikov/Pasha: But what does that matter? The private life, love, and so on, it's all dead and gone now, don't you agree? We have more important things to do. In any case, it was a way to delusion.
Yuri: It's the only thing that makes life worth living.

Misha Gordon: After all this you still write poetry?
Yuri: [nods]
Misha Gordon: What about?
Yuri: The world, love, particular people, how extraordinary it all is, what a gift it is to be alive in the world and know you're alive.

Critical Responses:

"I am not going to compare two versions of "Doctor Zhivago". To me they are so different that there is not much grounds for comparison.

I possibly can not share fascination with 1965 movie. It could be viewed as a love story performed by two great actors. But it is anything but Boris Pasternak's story. In Russia they would call it "lubok" - a colorful picture, work of one's imagination. Beautiful but having nothing to do with reality.

2002 version is a story that carries one away not only with its plot but also its truthfulness. And I don't mean just following the events of the book.

Boris Pasternak's book is full of pain - personal and collective. 2002 "Doctor Zhivago" shows true Russia, in so many small details - a woman calling chickens, a library in a church building, hospital beds in a corridor, Russian conversations in the background...And pain.

And it is also full of hope, as no matter how horrible life was, hope never died. And you can see hope in the movie - in Lara's eyes, in Yury's smile.

Thumbs up!" - Internet Movie Database.

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