Thursday, 2 December 2010

Dr Zhivago: A Love Story

So I've finished Dr. Zhivago. As you may have gathered from reading my comments on your posts I loved many parts of it. The description of nature, I love the faith and as Rachel put it so much more eloquently than me the 'soul'. I've been confused by the issue of 'translation' but have been reminded of the lesson that 'the grass isn't always greener on the other side.'

What I've found hard, and this was the same for me in another great Russian novel Anna Karenina, is the great love. But they're already married I keep thinking and feeling. In this case it's not as if his marriage wasn't happy. A part of me kept thinking 'We're lucky to find one love in life and here's Yury and Lara each have had two loves in their life!'

This passage shows he has a soul and a conscience - but what good are they if we don't change our actions?

"Yury was deceiving Tonya and what he concealed from her was becoming increasingly grave and ilicit. This was something unheard-of between them.
He worshipped Tonya. Her peace of mind meant more to him than anything in the world....
At home he felt like a criminal.....
Had he been unfaithful to her because he preferred another woman? No, he had made no comparison, no choice. He did not believe in 'free love' or in the 'right' to be carried away by his senses. To think or speak in such terms seemed to him degrading...Now he was crushed by the weight of his guilty conscience.
'What next?' he sometimes asked himself, and hoped wretchedly for some impossible, unexpected circumstance to solve his problem for him."

Part of me wonders what would have happenend if they hadn't been in the midst of civil unrest with families being mixed up, people just disappearing. How convenient for their love.

And then we read this letter from Tonya to Yury when she is about to leave for Paris.

"The whole trouble is that I love you and that you don't love me. I keep trying to discover the meaning of this judgement on me, to understand it, to see the reason for it. I look into into myself, I go over our whole life together and everything I know about myself, and I can't find the beginning , and I can't remember what it is I did and how I brought this misfortune on myself...
As for me, I love you. If only you knew how much I love you. I love all that is unusual in you, the inconvenient and as well as the covenient, and all the ordinary things which, in you, are made precious to me by being combined in an extraordinary way;
...God keep you, I must stop. They have come for the letter... O Yura Yura, my darling, my husband, my children's father, what is happening to us? Do you realise that we'll never, never see each other again?"

And my heart and soul ache for her - and I think/feel again 'Yury how can you do this?' And I think about us, the readers, are we condoning such behaviour by reading and re reading this story of deception, hurt and betrayal.

And then we get to the Conclusion and Epilogue (which to begin with I didn't understand and wondered why it was there but then grew to love it and perhaps became one of my favourite parts of the book.) Reading this passage I realised why everyone refers to Dr. Zhivago as 'the greatest love story.'

"Oh, what a love it was, how free, how new, like nothing else on earth!...
It was not out of necessity that they loved each other, 'enslaved by passion', as lovers are described. They loved each other because everything around them willed it, the trees and the clouds and the sky over their heads and the earth under their feet. Perhaps their surrounding world, the strangers they met in the street, the landscapes drawn up for them to see on their walks, the rooms in which they lived or met, were even more pleased with their love than they were themselves."

I'm still not sure how I feel about this love story. What are your thoughts?


  1. As you know, I loved the love story, even though it's against everything I hold true for marriage. Somehow, because it's 'just' characters, or maybe due to Pasternak's writing, I'm able to overlook the transgression on their part and just see their incredible emotion. I love the quotes you put, each one was something I'd marked in my reading as well.

  2. I haven't ever read the book- I should! but I chanced upon the film one cold rainy Sunday at home at my parents in the English countryside and I couldn't stop watch- I was compelled and mesmerised. As told by David Lean the story is so moving- and you are right Yuri and Lara are adulterers and I do not approve of that- but Yuri is such a complete person in every other sense- in the film it seems like Tonya was Yuri's boyhood love- something like a sister really (but not of course) where as Lara is his adult love- a love that changes him and makes him who he is.

    The other thing I find very moving is the absolute love Yuri has for his country- which I know is silly, it's just land of course- but I completely understand not wanting to leave your ground- even though it might be safer- even more responsible


Ooh how lovely more stripes on the page...
Thank you for taking the time.