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This article is taken from PN Review 34, Volume 10 Number 2, November - December 1983.

A Traveller Between Two stations: Boris Pasternak John Pilling

In a paper of 1913, delivered shortly after his return to Moscow from the University of Marburg and titled 'Symbolism and Immortality', Boris Pasternak first made public the idea he was to spend a lifetime developing, refining and in his own person exemplifying:

Although the artist is of course mortal like the rest of mankind, the joy of living experienced by him is immortal, and a century later other people may be able to experience through his works something approaching the personal and vital form of his original sensations.

The idea in itself may not strike us as particularly startling, and the language in which it is couched may seem a little too modest, but the mature Pasternak would have found little to quarrel with in this formulation, and could justifiably have claimed that he had identified his essential concerns with prophetic accuracy. 'The joy of living' sounds a much less empty phrase with Pasternak's whole oeuvre in front of us, underpinning as it does all his major work, from My sister life: the summer of 1917 (published 1922) through The Childhood of Lyuvers of 1918 (1925) and the poems of Second Birth (1932), and receiving its most extended and explicit treatment in his solitary novel, Doctor Zhivago (1957), on which he had worked for twenty years. For Pasternak to have maintained this joy in spite of poor health, a complicated private life, persistent vilification by party hacks and direct and ...

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