The Zhivago Affair

The Zhivago Affair

The Zhivago Affair

The Zhivago Affair

“Oh, what a love it was, utterly free, unique, like nothing else on earth! Their thoughts were like other people’s songs.”

 Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago


Words hold power.

A story is more powerful.

That was my thought as I read, “The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book”  by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée.

I confess that when I first read Doctor Zhivago and watched Omar Sharif fall desperately in love with Julie Christie, all I was interested in was the love story.  I was young and unfamiliar with the traumatic events of the time in which the narrative was positioned.  I knew that there was some conflict, but, in my view, it was dramatic background material that served to move the characters around a stage.

The Zhivago Affair sent me scurrying back to reread parts of the original novel.  My eyes were opened.  Indeed, there was a passionate and profoundly moving love story – one that I had missed completely.   That is, the love of Boris Pasternak for his beloved Russia.  Boris Pasternak wrote Doctor Zhivago, knowing that his life was in danger.

“You are hereby invited,” he said, “to my execution.” Boris Pasternak

The Zhivago Affair is a page-turner.  It’s complex, exciting, poignant.   Peter Finn and Petra Couvée have crafted an extraordinary account of how a book can be used by powerful nations to wage political battles and influence the course of history. The reviews have been enthusiastic; descriptions include, masterful, thrilling, rich, scrupulously researched.

A word about the authors: Peter Finn is National Security Editor for The Washington Post (previously stationed in Moscow as the Post’s bureau chief); Petra Couvée is a writer and translator; she teaches at Saint Petersburg State University.

My greatest takeaway from reading The Zhivago Affair, was an understanding of Boris Pasternak’s life, his loves, his hopes and fears.

“I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and of little value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.”  Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

A special thank you to Elisabeth van der Meer from  A Russian Affair for rekindling my interest in Russian literature.

Perugia, Italy

The Rainbow Comes & Goes

The Rainbow Comes & Goes

The Rainbow Comes & Goes

“My mother comes from a vanished world, a place and a time that no longer exist. I have always thought of her as a visitor stranded here; an emissary from a distant star that burned out long ago.” Anderson Cooper

This is not my usual reading choice.  I confess the title caught my attention; rainbows are a powerful symbol of hope, of connection to the past and to other worlds.  North mythology spoke of a  burning rainbow bridge “Bifrost,” as the link between the gods in Asgard and humanity in Midgard (earth).  In ancient Japan, ancestor used rainbows to visit earth.  For the Navajos, rainbows  are the paths taken by holy spirits. Whenever I see a rainbow I feel a lift of my spirits as if, for a moment in time, I have glimpsed into a realm of infinite possibilities.

And besides rainbows, I enjoy Anderson Cooper’s insightful journalism.  As for Gloria Vanderbilt, the name alone envisions a woman of great strength and courage; a woman who lived her life in the limelight with grace and equanimity

On her birthday, Gloria Vanderbilt wrote to her son,

“91 years ago on this day, I was born. I recall a note from my Aunt Gertrude, received on a birthday long ago. “Just think, today you are 17 whole years old!” she wrote. Well, today — I am 91 whole years old — a hell of a lot wiser, but somewhere still 17.  What is the answer? What is the secret? Is there one?”

Ah, those are marvelous questions.

I chose audio-book format, which I would highly recommend.  Hearing their voices places listeners in the center of the discussion between a mother and son.  As I listened, I realized that I wanted to record conversations with my mother, to share ideas between generations. Time moves ever forward; the only way our stories are remembered is if we write them down.

Rainbows come and go in life; times of celebration and grieving mark our journey. William Wordsworth says it the best in “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”

The Rainbow comes and goes, And lovely is the Rose,The Moon doth with delight Look round her when the heavens are bare, Waters on a starry night Are beautiful and fair;The sunshine is a glorious birth; But yet I know, where’er I go, That there hath past away a glory from the earth.



We Will Remember

Canada Remembers

Canada Remembers

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
John McCrae