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This article is taken from PN Review 6, Volume 5 Number 2, January - March 1979.

The Poet and the Revolutionary Angela Livingstone

Zhivago and Strelnikov: Pasternak and Mayakovsky. (A note springing from Angela Livingstone's review of Henry Gifford's Pasternak in PNR 5.)

PROFESSOR GIFFORD says that one of the main antitheses in Dr Zhivago is between, on the one hand, Yury himself and, on the other, 'those who have capitulated to the ethos of the new system'. He lists the latter: Pasha, Antipov, Liberius, Dudorov and Gordon. Zhivago, he says, 'makes for life', while these are people who 'in their censure of his attitudes make for death'.

It seems to me that to put Antipov/Strelnikov in the same list as these others, to say that he 'capitulates', and that he 'makes for death', is both to miss the complexity of his character and to ignore the complex fascination that Pasternak feels towards him. In Henry Gifford's view Strelnikov is straightforward, he is one of those who 'traduce themselves', who join the side of the overprincipled, the artificial and the untalented, and are unable to be disinterested, natural and contemplative. Strelnikov seems to me to be far more than this.

True, he is summed up as being all will, and is said to lack the 'unprincipled heart which knows no general cases but only particular ones ...' and so forth. But he is also summed up in a number of other ways. For a start, he makes a favourable impression on Yury, as the latter tells Lara when recounting to her his meeting with him in ...


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