The Zhivago Affair
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The Zhivago Affair : The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book

By (author) Peter Finn , By (author) Petra Couvee

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"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 Couvee 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.)""

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  • Hardback | 352 pages
  • 152.4 x 233.68 x 35.56mm | 680.39g
  • 17 Jun 2014
  • Pantheon Books
  • English
  • black & white plates
  • 0307908003
  • 9780307908001
  • 247,968

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Author Information

Peter Finn is National Security Editor for "The Washington Post" and previously served as the "Post" s bureau chief in Moscow. Petra Couvee is a writer and translator and teaches at Saint Petersburg State University. "The Zhivago Affair" is their first collaboration together."

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Review quote

"A work of deep historical research that reads a little like Le Carre, 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 " "Brisk and thrilling...The authors use rich archival research, including previously classified CIA files, to depict the oppressive political conditions that gave rise to Pasternak's masterpiece, and the international firestorm that occurred when the novel was banned in the Soviet Union. The book offers nuanced depictions of the people in Pasternak's life, including his lover, Olga Ivinskaya, who championed his work and shared his torment at the hands of the KGB. The torturous ideological policing by the Soviets is discussed to great effect; for indeed, the tale of "Doctor Zhivago" itself is very much about the long psychic scar left by Russian Revolution. It's a story expertly told by Finn and Couvee, who unsparingly present the role played by the Kremlin in persecuting Pasternak and his loved ones, as well as the role of the CIA in using his masterpiece in a game of ideological warfare--overall, a triumphant reminder that truth is sometimes gloriously stranger than fiction." --"Publishers Weekly, " starred review "A detailed reconstruction of one of the most fascinating of the Cold War's cultural skirmishes..."The Zhivago Affa

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