368 pages, 9.48 × 6.41 × 1.32 in
June 17, 2014
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0307908003
ISBN - 13: 9780307908001
Read from the Book
Chapter 1Bullets cracked against the facade of the Pasternak family’s apartment building on Volkhonka Street in central Moscow, pierced the windows, and whistled into the plaster ceilings. The gunfire, which began with a few isolated skirmishes, escalated into all-out street fighting in the surrounding neighborhood, and drove the family into the back rooms of the spacious second-floor flat. That, too, seemed perilous when shrapnel from an artillery barrage struck the back of the building. Those few civilians who ventured out on Volkhonka crab-ran from hiding spot to hiding spot. One of the Pasternaks’ neighbors was shot and killed when he crossed in front of one of his windows. On October 25, 1917, in a largely bloodless coup, the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd, the Russian capital, which had been called Saint Petersburg until World War I broke out and a Germanic name became intolerable. Other major centers did not fall so easily as militants loyal to the revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin battled the Provisional Government that had been in power since March. There was more than a week of fighting in Moscow, the country’s commercial center and second city, and the Pasternaks found themselves in the middle of it. The family’s apartment building was on a street that crested a hill. The flat’s nine street-side windows offered a panoramic view of the Moscow River and the monumental golden dome of Christ the Savior Cathedral. The Kremlin was just a few hundred meters to the
Table of Contents
“This is Doctor Zhivago. May it make its way around the world.”
“The roof over the whole of Russia has been torn off.”
“Pasternak, without realizing it, entered the personal life of Stalin.”
“I have arranged to meet you in a novel.”
“You are aware of the anti--Soviet nature of the novel?”
“Until it is finished, I am a fantastically, manically unfree man.”
“Not to publish a novel like this would constitute a crime against culture.”
“If this is freedom seen through Western eyes, well, I must say we have a different view of it.”
“We tore a big hole in the Iron Curtain.”
“We’ll do it black.”
“He also looks the genius: raw nerves, misfortune, fatality.”
“There would be no mercy, that was clear.”
“Pasternak’s name spells war.”
“I am lost like a beast in an enclosure.”
“A college weekend with Russians”
“An unbearably blue sky”
“It’s too late for me to express regret that the book wasn’t published.”
A Note on Sources
From the Publisher
Drawing on newly declassified government files, this is the dramatic story of how a forbidden book in the Soviet Union became a secret CIA weapon in the ideological battle between East and West.
In May 1956, an Italian publishing scout took a train to a village just outside Moscow to visit Russia’s greatest living poet, Boris Pasternak. He left carrying the original manuscript of Pasternak’s first and only novel, entrusted to him with these words: “This is Doctor Zhivago. May it make its way around the world.” Pasternak believed his novel was unlikely ever to be published in the Soviet Union, where the authorities regarded it as an irredeemable assault on the 1917 Revolution. But he thought it stood a chance in the West and, indeed, beginning in Italy, Doctor Zhivago was widely published in translation throughout the world.
From there the life of this extraordinary book entered the realm of the spy novel. The CIA, which recognized that the Cold War was above all an ideological battle, published a Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago and smuggled it into the Soviet Union. Copies were devoured in Moscow and Leningrad, sold on the black market, and passed surreptitiously from friend to friend. Pasternak’s funeral in 1960 was attended by thousands of admirers who defied their government to bid him farewell. The example he set launched the great tradition of the writer-dissident in the Soviet Union.
In The Zhivago Affair, Peter Finn and Petra Couvée bring us intimately close to this charming, passionate, and complex artist. First to obtain CIA files providing concrete proof of the agency’s involvement, the authors give us a literary thriller that takes us back to a fascinating period of the Cold War—to a time when literature had the power to stir the world.
(With 8 pages of black-and-white illustrations.)
About the Author
Peter Finn is National Security Editor for The Washington Post and previously served as the Post’s bureau chief in Moscow.
Petra Couvée is a writer and translator and teaches at Saint Petersburg State University.
The Zhivago Affair is their first collaboration together.
"Beautifully crafted and scrupulously researched...Finn and Couvée have taken a complex and difficult history with many moving parts and turned it into a kind of intellectual thriller. They have to control a lot of information, yet they keep the book well-paced and often exciting. The Zhivago Affair is a prime example of hard work and fidelity to a good story."—Washington Post"A work of deep historical research that reads a little like Le Carré, this is the backstory of the foreign publication of Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, and it bears its multiple burdens lightly: a sideways biography of Pasternak; a psychological history of Soviet Russia; a powerful argument for the book as literature; an entry into the too-small canon on the CIA’s role in shaping culture. In new reporting on the Agency’s distribution of the book behind enemy lines, the authors show how both sides in the Cold War used literary prestige as a weapon without resorting to cheap moral equivalency."—New York"Fascinating...Told in its entirety, the story of how Doctor Zhivago helped disrupt the Soviet Union holds some intriguing implications for the present and future of cultural conflict."—The Atlantic"The Zhivago Affair does a masterful job of putting flesh on the bare bones of a story that has been hinted at in the press for decades."—NPR"A rich and unanticipated story...[Finn and Couvée] demonstrate a sophisticated appreciation for an artistic quest that was haunted by dread, persecution, and loss. They al