Book Review: The Zhivago Affair by Peter Finn and Petra Couvee

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About:
The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvee is a non-fiction book covering the history of the famous novel Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak and how it was used by the CIA for propaganda purposes.

  • 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307908003

Buy The Zhivago Affair from Amazon.com*

My rat­ing for The Zhivago Affair 4
Buy The Zhivago Affair from Amazon.com*

Thoughts:
The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvee is an exciting, well researched and well written book. The authors go to great length not only to tell a story, but give the reader the historical context in which the events were happening, as well as the social and political climates.

The Soviet Union’s literature in the 1950s had to go through so many layers of bureaucratic censorship that what was finally published was simply propaganda. If a writer, poet or artist went against the system, they suffered financially, publicly, physically and sometimes all three as well as forfeited their lives. Famous author Boris Pasternak was spared some of these punishments because Stalin, it is said, liked his poetry.

Mr. Pasternak’s masterpiece, Dr. Zhivago, was not allowed to be published in the Soviet Union, it was seen as too critical of the 1917 revolution as well as the chaos and disorder that followed. In an act of courageous civil disobedience, knowing full well the consequences of his actions, the author allowed the work he has written over decades to be smuggled to Italy and published.

The CIA, trying to encourage dissidents and get under the skin of the Soviet government, printed hundreds of copies of Dr. Zhivago in Russian to be passed out at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, when Russian tourists enter the Vatican Pavilion. In 1958, Boris Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, he paid dearly for the prize, being denounced and expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers (which means he could not get published in his homeland). Sadly, Mr. Pasternak was forced to reject the Noble Prize.

This is a wonderful book, the title is a bit misleading since the CIA operation is not a big part of the story. A book about a brilliant, and brave writer, a system that tried to destroy him and a system that tried to use him to win a very small victory in the Cold War.

Buy The Zhivago Affair from Amazon.com*

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I borrowed this book from the local library
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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