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 concealing 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 knew his novel was unlikely 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
Finn and Petra Couvée 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. Download and start listening now!