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This article is taken from PN Review 5, Volume 5 Number 1, October - December 1978.

Boris Pasternak: A New Romanticism Angela Livingstone

'WHERE SHALL I put my joy?' runs a line in one of Pasternak's early poems. Professor Gifford writes that it is 'a very rare thing for poetry in this age continually to celebrate happiness'; his book shows Pasternak as this rare kind of poet.

This is an important book-the first full introduction to Pasternak for the English reader, particularly valuable for its attempt to 'place' him, among Russian and non-Russian writers. It moves chronologically but is primarily critical, not biographical. Pasternak held that a poet's life should remain obscure, and Professor Gifford tells his life-story only where this makes for clarity about the works. A discussion of his devotion to music, in childhood and adolescence, brings an examination of the 'musical' in his early verse; an account of his subsequent devotion to philosophy leads to reflections on the 'philosophical' in the verse. Poetry was Pasternak's third choice of creative career. Here Professor Gifford relates him to the main poetic movements of his time: Symbolism, Acmeism and Futurism. He was closest to the Futurists, but where they rejected the past, he did not; they were preoccupied with devices, he with perceptions; they sought self-expression, he to remove the self altogether and 'allow the surrounding world to make its disclosures to him'. Thus originates a kind of verse which Henry Gifford calls, in one of his many apt descriptive phrases, 'poetry of the unguarded instant'.

Removal of the 'self': a guiding concept in this book is 'disinterestedness'. ...


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