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review 2014-09-19 00:00
The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book
The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book - Peter Finn,Petra Couvée I got this out of the library based on an LA Times review, I think, and expected a caper thriller about the CIA publishing and distributing Zhivago in the USSR. That's the selling point, but it has very little to do with this book. As a thorough history of the writing and publication of Zhivago, and of the last 20 years of Pasternak's life, and suppression of the arts in the former Soviet Union, it's great, and probably good history, but exciting it's not. I'm swearing off non-fiction again—too dull.
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review 2014-07-11 10:41
The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn, Petra Couvee
The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book - Peter Finn,Petra Couvée

bookshelves: radio-4, summer-2014, biography, nonfiction, poetry, fradio, published-2014, slavic, politics, history, books-about-books-and-book-shops, spies

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 20 to July 11, 2014




Description: Thanks to the superb David Lean film, Doctor Zhivago is known to millions. However, few know the full story of the publication (or non-publication) of the novel. For this revelatory and fascinating tale, Peter Finn and Petra Couvée obtained previously classified CIA documents that shed light on an unknown aspect of one of the 20th-century's greatest books.

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) was a highly successful poet and translator in Russia before he penned his first novel. In 1956, while he was living in Peredelkino, a writer's colony created by Stalin, he sent the novel to one of Russia's most esteemed journals, Novy Mir, but it was rejected because it was deemed anti-Soviet.

Pasternak felt Doctor Zhivago was his greatest work and wanted it widely read; however, since 1929, no Russian author had broken the rule against foreign publication without approval from the authorities. When the opportunity to publish the book in Italy came along, the manuscript was smuggled into Milan and published in 1957. In 1958, the CIA's books program printed a special Russian-language edition and secretly distributed it in the Vatican's pavilion at the World's Fair in Brussels. Copies began turning up in Russia, and additional copies were given to students, tourists, diplomats, even Russian truck drivers and sailors, to smuggle into the Soviet Union. This represented one of the first efforts by the CIA to leverage books as instruments of political warfare. The book's growing popularity infuriated the Soviet government, and when Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in 1958, he had to decline it--had he accepted it, he could never return home.
--Tom Lavoie, former publisher

1/5 Pasternak's poetry is receiving rave reviews, and the Soviet leadership soon takes note.

2/5 Pasternak begins an affair with Olga Ivinskaya, which proves a dangerous move.

3/5 The Russian-language manuscript of Dr Zhivago arrives at CIA headquarters.

4/5 Illicit copies of Dr Zhivago are in great demand at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair.

5/5 Pasternak is awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize in Literature but is forced to renounce it.

A rating of four Nobel medals

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text 2014-04-10 15:24
Doctor Zhivago worked for the CIA?

Ours is not to question why, ours is but to do or...spy.



The CIA is not the first organization that comes to mind if you mention the topic of publishing, but during the late 1950s the CIA printed Russian-language copies of Doctor Zhivago and distributed the books to Soviet citizens as part of a propaganda program. Working from over 130 recently declassified documents, authors Peter Finn and Petra Couvee describe how the CIA regarded the novel as a “literary weapon” in the Cold War. Their new book, The Zhivago Affair, is due out in June 2014.


zhivagoBoris Pasternak believed his novel would never be published because the Soviet authorities regarded it as “an irredeemable assault on the 1917 revolution.” Consequently he went to an Italian publishing scout and the novel was later published widely in the west. The CIA published a hardcover version of the book in the Netherlands, and printed its own paperback version, careful in both cases to avoid any association with the US. It also instructed operatives on how to use the book to engage Soviet citizens on the topic of communism versus democracy and freedom of expression. One internal memo shows that the CIA actively encouraged publishing the novel in as many languages as possible for maximum distribution throughout the free world, which in turn helped earn Pasternak his Nobel Price for Literature in 1958.

Source: books2day.com/2014/04/09/dr-zhivago-worked-for-the-cia
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