A&E: Panou’s paper panel


Perhaps one of the most unheard of great modern day classics is the Russian-born writer Boris Pasternak’s most inspiring epic for the ages, Dr Zhivago. Dr Zhivago is a living, breathing culmination of the greatness of literature. Published in 1957, the book earned Pasternak the 1958 Nobel Prize in literature, which he unfortunately had to decline for fear of Soviet reprisal. Pasternak considered the beautiful tale of tragedy, time, life, love and chaos under the despotic regime of the Soviets his magnum opus.

Set in Moscow and later Russia’s Ural Mountains, Dr Zhivago is the life story of the doctor-turned-poet, Dr. Yuri Zhivago. Born to a wealthy industrial family of Russia’s 19th century technological boom, Zhivago is orphaned at a very young age and enters the care of his uncle, a respected Moscow scholar. Yuri grows up and enlists in the Russian medical corps during the first world war and finds himself in the acquaintance of the future general of the Soviet Partisan Force. Disconnecting from this life, Yuri returns and is married to start a family. To escape the war, Zhivago moves his family to Russia’s Urals, where he falls in love with another woman as the civil war erupts and spreads to the rest of Russia.

The book is often noted as a classic novel of Russian literature, but it is unusual in the fact that it does not belong to a specific literary movement since the book is an experimental novel. Pasternak believed that the universe is constantly moving forward, disjoining and disconnected. To him, life must be spontaneous and arbitrary. The seeming chaotic nature of Dr. Zhivago is written to symbolize this, making it unlike any other novel.

Pasternak’s literary theme is highly unusual as well. In his younger years, Pasternak believed that all human reactions to natural elements, such as light and sound, are uniquely individual, resulting from a suprapersonal attribute all humans possess. Perception subjectivity has no set rules because all humans perceive differently.

The seemingly chaotic nature and lack of common narrative is represented in Dr. Zhivago to imprint the knowledge of this truth. Such imprints exist in history too, with events leaving a burning sensation through the lack of historical narrative. The idea that the events of the novel, such as the Russian Civil Wars, the World Wars and the political terror of the Soviets, will always pierce through the seeming chaos of general subjectivity is the theme of Dr. Zhivago.

Highly entertaining, jaw-dropping and beautiful, Dr. Zhivago is to be enjoyed by many. The book was written for all to look back on the literary themes and to feel the same emotions triggered by general subjectivity, a disruption in the order of nature.