A Captive of Time: My Years with Pasternak – Olga Ivinskaya


Condition : Good.
Collins, 1978, Vintage Hardback with removable protective plastic wrap – Memoirs – 488pp.

For the last fourteen years of Boris Pasternak’s life, the critical period during which he wrote Doctor Zhivago, Olga Ivinskaya was his closest companion. She helped him in his work, and represented him in his dealings with publishers, the Soviet authorities and the outside world in general. More than this she provided the essential inspiration for him in the writing of the novel, serving as the prototype of its heroine, Lara. Because of her association with Pasternak (whom the Soviet secret police were reluctant to molest directly in view of his universally acknowledged standing as on of Russia’s greatest poets), Madame Ivinskaya was twice imprisoned In a forced labour camp, first from 1949 to 1953, and a second time after Pasternak’s death from 1960 to 1964.After her return to Moscow from her second imprisonment, Madame Ivinskaya began to write this book, which was completed in 1972.

A Captive of Time, apart from giving an intimate picture of Pasternak in his later years, will bring home to readers in the West, as very few other books have done, what it was like to live in Moscow during the final demented stages of Stalin’s rule, and then in the anxious, uncertain times that followed under his successor, Nikita Khrushchev. We learn many intriguing new details about Pasternak’s attitude to Stalin and to the Soviet regime, under which he lived the greater part of his life.

The story of the origins of Doctor Zhivago, of the motives which impelled Pasternak to write it and then, in an unprecedented act of defiance, to send it to the West for publication there, is revealed for the first time at first hand. The events set in train by the award of the Nobel Prize to Pasternak in 1958 were surely the most dramatic of their kind in the history of modern literature, and Madame Ivinskaya’s descriptions of them brings them back with harrowing immediacy.

But a Captive of Time is not all tragedy. There were happy interludes and lighter moments in Madame Ivinskaya’s years with Pasternak. The poet’s invincible resilience and love of his life only rarely deserted him, and this made it possible for both to rise above the disasters and ordeals that overtook them. Some of the most memorable pages of the book are devoted to the relatively serene times spent together at their refuge in the country near Moscow, and with her sharp eye for the grotesque or incongruous Madame Ivinskaya often sets off in comic relief the many grim matters which she relates.

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