Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The pensive looking fellow above is one Boris Pasternak, born this day 1890 in Moscow, Russia. He was born into an artistic family, his father was a famous artist, and teacher at the Moscow School for Painting. His mother was a fairly well known concert pianist. Boris was brought up in a intellectual setting, and his home was visited by many writers, poets, and novelists of the day. One of those being a previous hero, Rainer Rilke. At first he wanted to be a composer, then turned to philosophy before finally settling on the career that makes him a hero, a writer/poet of amazing talent. His most famous book, Doctor Zhivago is set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and is a wonderful book. They even turned it into a lovely 3 hour movie that I was forced to watch while in undergraduate school. I thank the professor who made me watch it, for it is an awesome movie, and as usual the book is even better. In order to be published, the book was smuggled out of the USSR by Isaiah Berlin, and first published in Italian. It became an immediate best seller, spending twenty-six weeks at the top of The New York Times' best seller list. Years later it was determined that the CIA had help fund the book's first publication in Russian just in time for it to be considered for the 1958 Nobel Prize. Pasternak won the Noble Prize in 1958, and was at first sent a very excited, thankful telegram to the Swedish Academy. However, a few days later he sent another telegram to the Academy declining the award. The intense pressure from Soviet authorities had led to Pasternak's refusal. Pasternak's son eventually was allowed to accept the award on his father's behalf in 1989. Pasternak himself had no role in the publication of the novel in Russian, and was unaware of the CIA's involvement, but nevertheless paid the price. He died of lung cancer in 1960. But, for writing a sweeping novel of love and life in pre-Soviet Russia, that is a fantastic read, Boris Pasternak (February 10th, 1890- May 30th, 1960 at the age of 70), you are my (169th) hero of the day.

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