27 June 2014

The CIA and Pasternak

Long term suspicions that the CIA had a hand in publicizing Doctor Zhivago have just been confirmed in a new book, The Zhivago Affair (see my article on Pasternak for the NYRB of July 10 and my Essays page). The unexpected appearance of this book, by American journalist, Peter Finn, and Dutch Slavist, Petra Couvee, was an unpleasant surprise for me at first, because I too had acquired copies of the relevant CIA documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, and was planning to write a book along similar lines. That said, Finn and Couvee's book is first-rate and ranges far beyond the CIA's role, which in retrospect was minor, to questions of Doctor Zhivago's composition, the role of Pasternak's mistress, Olga Ivinskaya, in influencing its contents and ensuring its publication, and Pasternak's heroic determination and fortitude in challenging and defeating the Soviet government at an advanced age. My full response can be found in the NYRB.

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    OK, a bit on the formal side. I'd suggest for your blog you alter type to something more friendly. Blogs tend to me personal letters, exchanges. In my case I have a correspondent, Ned Baslow whose correspondence makes things fun. However, at the moment, you're still with the formal, but later you must have a readership mind: what they want to know about is 'What's writing a biography all about?' All those interviews for Koestler: good, pick out a few. They can be part of a series. Also, the Blog should come to the fore. This allows you to make announcements; use headlines; attract the reader. Many of those interviews took you to interesting places - another idea for the blog. Stick to it!

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