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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Dr Zhivago (Everyman's Library Classics)
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on 21 November 2017
Layout and print in book not usual Kindle standard thus the low scoring . Spacing of paragraphs and thin pale fonts very odd. Worth paying more for better print - might even up grade if possible because I know it will be a 5 star story.
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on 19 November 2017
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on 3 January 2017
"Art has two constant, two unending preoccupations: it is always meditating on death and it is always thereby creating life"

One of the marks of a truly great author is that capacity to break all the 'rules' of 'good' writing and yet still create something bigger than the sum of its parts. Pasternak does that here in this vast, frequently elliptical novel set against the Russian Revolution. Don't come to this expecting the lush romance of the famous David Lean film: while the love story between Lara and Yuri does sit at the centre of this book, it's also oddly opaque. Lara is as much a symbol for Zhivago as a flesh-and-blood woman.

This is a book which has no qualms about throwing multitudes of names and characters at us, of skipping rapidly between scenes, of missing out important parts of the story that we have to understand retrospectively by implication, of telling us things rather than dramatising them: and yet seeping through the surface confusion is a deep cohesion, a way of capturing both historical moments and somehow detaching from them at the same time to offer up something fundamental and satisfying.

One of the cornerstones of Pasternak's vision for this book is a sense of fatefulness epitomised by Yuri's sense at the end that from the moment he saw the candle burning in the window of Lara, then a stranger to him, his life has been ordained. 'All these people were there, together, in this one place. But some of them had never nown each other, while others failed to recognise each other now.'

There's much harshness in this book but also moments of serenity and peace: 'a breath of that freedom and unconcern which had been his climate filled her lungs'.

Politically, this moves from the intellectual excitement of radical change to the betrayal of the ideals of revolution. A vast and rich book that deserves re-reading.
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on 30 June 2015
Don't get me wrong, this is a fantastic story and I have seen both versions of the film (the first was better and truer to the book). It is easily worth five stars and, dare I say it, Pasternak is up with Tolstoy as one of the country's great writers.

There are a number of typos, but not too many, which come from translating Russian characters or even just accents, so é as in touché is represented as something like Â~@, into Western ones. OK, that is normal in scanned books for the Kindle but for that reason it loses a star and annoys me so much as even a free word processor program could have solved this with search and replace.

The story is based around five main characters Yuri, Lara, Tanya, Pasha and Komarovsky (the villain of the piece) and describes the chaotic descent into the Russian rebellion and the advent of communism told in an uniquely intimate way. It is a love story, a story of bravery, suffering and winning through. It takes you from the ballrooms of St Petersburg to the lowest of living. It is enthralling, emotional and reads very easily. The Russian habit of calling people by a variety of nicknames needs to be understood so Yura, Yurii, Yurichenka etc. are all the same person.
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on 3 December 2012
This is a most fascinating epic novel set in the turbulent times in Russia in the early twentieth century. Doctor Yuri Andreevich Zhivago is apolitical at the time of the October Revolution and the subsequent civil war. But, forced to work as a doctor for the partisans (Bolsheviks), he witnesses brutality and inhumanity committed by both sides. He reflects: "This time justified the old saying: Man is a wolf to man.... The human laws of civilisation ended. Those of beasts were in force. Man dreamed the prehistoric dreams of the caveman."

The relationship between Zhivago and Lara is, of course, the central theme. Their lives get tragically torn apart by the brutal forces beyond their control. When one realises that millions of Russians suffered the similar fate like Zhivago and Lara during the Revolution and civil war and under the totalitarian Soviet regime, the fate of these characters becomes poignant. The author's view on politics in Soviet Russia affecting ordinary citizens is an important theme. Pasternak writes: "Revolutions are produced by men of action, one-sided fanatics, geniuses of self-limitation. In a few hours or days they overturn the old order. The upheavals last for weeks, for years at the most, and then for decades, for centuries, people bow down to the spirit of limitation that led to the upheavals as to something sacred."

He also writes later on: "It was precisely the conformity, the transparency of their (Soviet officials') hypocrisy that exasperated Yuri Andreevich. The unfree man always idealises his slavery. So it was in the Middle Ages; it was on this that the Jesuits always played. Yuri Andreevich could not bear the political mysticism of the Soviet intelligentsia, which was its highest achievement, or, as they would have said then, the spiritual ceiling of the epoch." These are very brave comments to make about the political system during the repressive Soviet era.

It is easy to understand the reasons why the publication of this book in Soviet Union was banned by its authorities and Pasternak was forced by the Communist Party to decline the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958.

Pasternak's vivid and poetic descriptions of nature are very good indeed. The reader will realise that he was a great poet (as he is apparently known in Russia more than as a novelist) and a religious man.

I find the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (an experienced husband-and-wife team) excellent. I have not read other translations, but with this present version I feel the reader will be able to fully appreciate the beauty of the writing. Finally, with detailed notes by the translators, it's possible to follow military and political developments during the civil war and the subsequent period as well as understand some of Orthodox Church customs.
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VINE VOICEon 27 July 2013
Of course, Dr Zhivago was one of the great works of literature, so it deserves five stars. It's a story about people caught up in titanic times, times of huge moment and giant convulsion like the Titans, but also times of disaster and destruction, like the Titanic.

We meet a wide cast of characters and follow the life of the key protagonist, Yuri, from early boyhood to death and what happens after. I think one way to read this text is to simultaneously see how the immensity of the times - things come to a culmination during the First World War and the Russian Revolution - dwarf individuals and carry them willy-nilly on their own tides, and yet at the same time it is individuals who push and squeeze the times into what they are. It's only partly a love story, or several love stories, although the finding of love in the midst of or perhaps because of the mess of the times is a vital theme. I think at some level love matters as much as national revolution. But national revolution allows relationships that would never have otherwise happened, indeed conventional arrangements are shot to pieces. Pasternak brings lyrical descriptions and a sense of the giant nation. Such lyrical passages are contrasted with one of the most powerful and poignant and bleak statements in all literature as the final fate of Lara is casually disposed of in the moral bankruptcy of Stalin's Russia. It's not a perfect book, as others say, it has flaws, but it's a truly great book.

But what about this translation? I think this is actually better than the contemporary standard. My daughter and I did a book club reading and she read with more difficulty the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. We compared a number of passages and invariably both agreed that this old Fontana translation is better. Pevear and Volokhonsky have become very popular - fashionable - they almost dominate Russian translation today. But there is a kind of stiffness sometimes about their translation which does not help. The book has a basic list of characters but an index of key pages where you can remind yourself of who they are would have been useful. Two very important characters for example appear after a gap of hundreds of pages.Penguin publish a guide online to support book clubs or teachers and it also contains a chapter by chapter synopsis.
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on 22 June 2015
Some say that the book is always better than the film, whether it's down to translation I don't know but I found this book frustrating - the film made a better, more coherent story. There are far too many errors in this book, strange symbols popping up all over the place, typos and poor layout all went to detract from a story I always considered one of my all time favourites. Pasternak does not write with quite the same conviction or fire of other Russians such as Sholokov. Still, the story is quite atmospheric at times and in his best moments Pasternak is very good. If you have never read Zhivago or seen either the film or the TV series I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Perhaps I difficult to please since the
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on 16 March 2012
If you are a fan of Russian Literature (or even if you are not, but just enjoyed the film) I would wholeheartedly recommend this book. On the surface it is the story of Yury Andreyevich Zhivago and the two women he is torn between. Simultaneously, it is the story of the Russian revolution and of how the country is torn apart during the bitter struggles between the reds and the whites. It is evocative, beautifully written, lyrical and as poetic as Yury himself. You can feel the snowflakes stinging your skin as you read - it is truly a masterpiece. The love story between Lara and Yury which is central to the story is beautifully depicted and it is the human story behind the revolution which is the real draw in this book. The paragraph which reads: "Everything established, settled, everything to do with home and order and the common round, has crumbled into dust and been swept away in the general upheaval and reorganisation of the whole of society. The whole human way of life has been destroyed and ruined. All that's left is the bare, shivering human soul, stripped to the last shred, the naked force of the human psyche for which nothing has changed because it was always cold and shivering and reaching out to its nearest neighbour, as cold and lonely as itself. You and I are like the first two people on earth who at the beginning of the world had nothing to cover themselves with - at the end of it , you and I are just as stripped and homeless. And you and I are the last remembrance of all that immeasurable greatness which has been created in all the thousands of years between their time and ours, and it is in memory of all that vanished splendour that we live and love and weep and cling to one another." and later, when Yury dies, Lara sums it up with "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 reshaping the world - these things, no thank you, they are not for us" illustrate the philosophy behind the story perfectly. Revolutions happen but man will always live, love, die through them. The book is long at nearly 600 pages, but I never once felt it was overlong. Indeed, if anything, I felt that the only flaw in the book was that the end seemed a little hurried to me. It came as something as a shock when Yury dropped down dead on a tram, never reaching the fulfilment and peace he so desperately craved. Still - a beautiful book - heartily recommended.
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on 10 November 2015
What a shame that such a wonderful book has been ruined by such a poor translation. It may be technically correct but the power and subtlety of the prose has been totally lost, making reading painful rather than a pleasure. I have abandoned this and bought the paperback. Pasternak deserves better than this.
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on 18 July 2008
This is one of the very best novels I have ever read. This part menage-a-quatre, part lives of many in their spring through autumn times, part tragedy, part political commentary in revolutionary Russia is a tale that is marvelous in its telling. The handling of every subject from politics (Pasternak's score card on bolshevism and socialism in practice is unmistakable) to romance to war to upheavals in the daily lives of the characters is assured and masterful. The pace is living just like real life. There's no need to hollywood-ify the story through unnecessary and tacky raciness. This is not a Brangelina movie nor a John Grisham novel but just the sort of thing that can and may happen to you and me. The pace is fitting and the story is gripping from start to finish. The criticism of some reviewers of dullness is astonishing.

The prophets of positive thinking might preach you make your own luck but we all wink and guffaw because deep down in that inward place where reason meets instinct we know that chance creates its own existential experience. If for example you fall in love you do so whether with the right or wrong person and that's that. Likewise if you get caught up in a war not of your own making well life takes no prisoners and you suffer deprivations like everyone else and you make the best of it. That is what is so moving about this novel - how the characters take on life as it is and do their best and their best does not always come up to scratch. We sometimes today forget our humanity and that our proud egos are only set in a sea of earthy vulnerability. Pasternak's novel leaves the raw taste of life on your tongue and you come away with the piquant pungent taste of reality.

The characters are rich, the phrasing is inventive and the detailing of events, places and ambience throughout the book is evocative and visceral. The writing is superb. This is the sort of book that nobel prizes should be created for. A prize book and put simply a stunning masterpiece.
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