Art While Being Ruled:
“Abram Tertz,” Brecht, and Calderón
REALLY surprising about the Pasternak affair was not so much that Doctor Zhivago was denied publication in the Soviet Union or that Boris Pasternak was prevented from accepting his Nobel Prize award: fundamentally, our astonishment sprang from the fact that his novel had been written at all. So it is possible, Western intellectuals were forced to admit, for creative work to be pursued in the Soviet Union, at least by some individuals; creative work, moreover, treating those very facts of life in Russia which the Soviet authorities want left undescribed. Pasternak, to be sure, was something of an oddity, being neither a product of the October Revolution nor of its Stalinist aftermath. The poet’s sensibility had already been formed when the Bolsheviks came to power, and if it was not so strange, after all, that a man of such culture and quality should have retained his critical sense, perspective, and feeling for individual judgment throughout the long period when literary and cultural thought in Russia were being bureaucratized, yet it was extraordinary that his unsparing and utter dislike for bureaucratization had been not only felt, but expressed, and clearly, and in a novel presented for publication in the Soviet state.
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