Giving “Doctor Zhivago” Another Chance – Los Angeles Review of Books

WHEN MAX HAYWARD and Manya Harari translated Doctor Zhivago into English in 1958, it had not yet appeared in Russian. The novel, which traces the life and love affair of a Moscow doctor through three wars and two revolutions, was considered “anti-revolutionary” by the Politburo, and Soviet publishers had refused to publish it. In response, Boris Pasternak entrusted copies of his manuscript to foreign friends who ensured the novel would be published and read abroad. This Russian literary classic was in fact first printed as Il Dottor Živago in Milan; English and French translations quickly followed. In their translators’ note, Hayward and Harari expressed their wish to see the novel appear in Russian and, eventually, to “fall into the hands of a translator whose talent is equal to that of its author.” This note may sound charmingly self-deprecating to readers, but Hayward and Harari had been given just three months to translate Pasternak’s lengthy text. They were, as they say in their introduction, under no illusions that they had done justice even remotely to the original.
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