Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich, 1890-1960

Alternative names
Birth 1890-02-10
Death 1960-05-30

Biographical notes:

Pasternak was a Russian poet, who declined the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 for his novel Doctor Zhivago. Reavey was an English surrealist poet.

From the description of Letters to George Reavey, 1931-1960. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 77990740

From the guide to the Boris Leonidovich Pasternak Letters to George Reavey, 1931-1960., (Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University)

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak, 1890-1960

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was the oldest of four children, born to his parents Leonid Osipovich and Rozaliia Izidornovna Pasternak on January 29, 1890, in Moscow. He was enrolled in the Fifth Classical Gymnasium in 1901, delayed a year by the quota for Jews in state schools. In January 1906 the family moved to Berlin to avoid the threats posed by the ???? The family returned to Moscow eight months later, and Boris resumed his studies at the Gymnasium. Following his graduation in 1908, he enrolled at Moscow University, first upon a course of law and later in philosophy. He spent the summer of 1912 at Marburg University, studying with Herman Cohen, and graduated from Moscow University the following year.

Pasternak first left his parents’ home that fall, shortly before the beginning of the war. He was summoned for the draft in July of 1914, but released from duty due to a childhood injury to his leg. In early 1916 he left Moscow for work, returning in March 1917 after the February Revolution. He met Evgeniia Vladimirovna Lur’e in 1921, and they married the following winter. His third book, Sestra moia zhizn, which was published in 1922, was well received and made Pasternak a major literary figure in Russia. The family moved briefly to Berlin but returned home before their son, Evgenii, was born in September of 1923. In 1926, they rented a dacha near some family and friends, where Boris fell in love with Zinaida Neigauz, wife of his friend Genrikh Gustavovich Neigauz. In 1931, he separated from Evegeniia, and married Zinaida, who had separated from Genrikh. On December 31st, 1936, Zinaida gave birth to another son, Leonid. The following year, excerpts from what would become Doctor Zhivago were printed in a literary journal. With the outbreak of war, Zinaida took the children to relative safety in Chistopol, but Boris stayed in Moscow until October. He spent much of the next decade working on translations.

In 1946, he began to focus his attention on his novel, which would consume much of his attention for the next nine years. The same year, he met Olga Vsevolodovna Ivinskaia, who, along with Zinaida, would inspire and shape the character of Lara. The following year they began an affair that lasted the rest of his life. He was hopeful that his book could be published in the Soviet Union, but upon its rejection, he had the manuscript taken to Italy, and the book was published abroad in 1956. It was translated into English in 1958, the same year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He happily accepted via telegram, but shortly after had to decline due to the negative reception of the award among the literati and government officials. In May of 1960 he suffered a heart attack, which was followed by a diagnosis of lung cancer, and he died on May 30, 1960. Doctor Zhivago, which had been officially condemned, was finally published in the Soviet Union in 1988. [Biographical information taken from the Dictionary of Literary Biography.]

Eugene Mark Kayden, 1886-1977

Eugene M. Kayden was a 1912 graduate of CU-Boulder. It was during his years at the University that he first developed his interest in Russian translation. His many donations to the University included the establishing of the Eugene M. Kayden Fund, which funds both Book Awards to support the publication of works in the humanities, and research grants to support the development of materials to be published in the future.

Scott Bates, an executor of the Kayden estate, described Kayden as "... a remarkable man, founder of the Economics department here [University of the South] in 1924 and one of our greatest teachers. He came to this county in 1903 as an idealistic Tolstoyan with no money and no knowledge of English; by 1912, he had worked his way through the University of Colorado by drafting, and had graduated with honors with a pick of scholarships to Chicago, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton to choose from! He went to Harvard, from there to Princeton, and then on to Columbia where... he won a scholarship to Oxford over his classmates Mark Van Doren and Joseph Wood Krutch, but couldn't go because of America's declaration of war with Germany. When he was turned down by the Army for flat feet, he served his new country by becoming the first Russian economics expert in the State Department; fired from that position for advocating political dealings with the new revolutionary government, he eventually ended up here [University of the South], where he was our one-man Economics department for twenty hears... He retired in 1955 in order to be able to devote all his time to his translations." [Walter G. Simon, Introduction to Colorado Quarterly Bonus Issue "Last Translations: Russian Poems," February 1979.]

From the guide to the Pasternak-Kayden Collection (MS 99), 1912-1960, 1958-1959, (University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. Special Collections Dept.)


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  • Russian poetry--20th century
  • Russian literature--20th century


  • Poets


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