Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 30, the birth of Boris Pasternak

Did the Communists starve the Nobel-laureate author of Dr Zhivago?
Boris Pasternak, in the years leading up to his death on May 30, 1968, suffered appalling persecution by his own government. He had won the Nobel Prize, but, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov after him, was not permitted to leave the USSR to attend the awards ceremony and expect to return. He was even expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers.
Evidence that the Communist regime of the Soviet Union might have wilfully starved Boris Pasternak to death emerged in a book, Moscow: Under the Skin, written by an Italian journalist, Viro Roberti.

Roberti interviewed the great author of Dr Zhivago several times during the ordeal. On March 15, 1960, Roberti met Pasternak, who was emaciated and sickly looking. The novelist told the interviewer, "I have been expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers so that I shall starve. No one publishes my poetry or my translations anymore, which was my daily bread. The first payments from my editor have been confiscated by order of the authorities …"
Pasternak died ten weeks later, on May 30, 1960. The monopoly State, it seems, had exercised the full logic of its power, disallowing a genius, who had been but mildly critical of communism in Dr Zhivago, the right even to eat. 
"In a February 21, 1966 newsletter, I wrote,
"'Communism may be defined as government by potential starvation. I have frequently tried to illustrate this power by the case of Boris Pasternak … I have repeatedly raised the question of whether he starved to death … I have never stated that the communists did starve him to death but have insisted that their sys­tem gave them the power to starve him and have questioned whether they did so. The same power controls all employment, all banks, all stores, all law courts, and all communications. The plight of an individual who falls foul of this power is obvi­ous. Once dismissed from his job, he cannot secure another; if he has savings in the bank, he cannot withdraw them; he has no prospect of legal redress; he cannot sell his possessions; and he has no free press to publicize his condition. He retains the freedom to starve.'
"There is now evidence from his own statements that Pasternak himself was vitally concerned with this possibility. This evidence is presented in a book, Moscow Under the Skin, written by an Italian journalist, Viro Roberti, who interviewed Pasternak sev­eral times during his ordeal."
Schwarz, Dr Fred, The Three Faces of Revolution, Prospect House, Washington, USA, 1972, pp. 43 - 48

"Suddenly (Pasternak's) eyes lit up and in a harsh voice he exclaimed: 'They have taken away this money in the hope that I will go down on my knees and disown my novel and my poetry. But nothing will ever make me yield  … I yield only to death!'
"Two days later the same friend, whose name I cannot reveal, came to see me at the Central Telegraph Office and told me that Boris Pasternak was 'gol kak sokol' (hungry as a hawk), extremely poor and had to borrow money to exist. 'All his works have been ostracised. Boris Leonidovich is unaware that his brother Alexander helps him and seeks help for him from his friends. If he knew this he would rather starve to death. He is also very ill!'"
Viro, Roberti, Moscow: Under the Skin, Geoffrey Bles, London, 1961, pp. 212 - 216
From Wikipedia: All media in the Soviet Union were controlled by the state including television and radio broadcasting, newspaper, magazine and book publishing. This was achieved by ownership of all production facilities, thus making all those employed in media state employees. This extended to the fine arts including the theater, opera and ballet. Art and Music was controlled by ownership of distribution and performance venues.
Like a beast in a pen, I'm cut off
From my friends, freedom, the sun,
But the hunters are gaining ground.
I've nowhere else to run.

Dark wood and the bank of a pond,
Trunk of a fallen tree.
There's no way forward, no way back.
It's all up with me.

Am I a gangster or murderer?
Of what crime do I stand
Condemned? I made the whole world weep
At the beauty of my land.

Even so, one step from my grave,
I believe that cruelty, spite,
The powers of darkness will in time
Be crushed by the spirit of light.

The beaters in a ring close in
With the wrong prey in view,
I've nobody at my right hand,
Nobody faithful and true.

And with such a noose on my throat
I should like for one second
My tears to be wiped away
By someone at my right hand.

Boris Pasternak, 1959


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