Boris Pasternak is best known in the West for his epic novel Doctor Zhivago, whereas in Russia he is most celebrated as a poet. The two poetry collections offered here in translation are chronological and thematic bookends, and they capture Pasternak’s abiding and powerful vision of life: his sense of its beauty and terror, its precariousness for the individual, and its persistence in time—that vitality of being with which he is on familiar and familial terms.
In the early work My Sister Life, which commemorates the year 1917, Pasternak, then in his late twenties, found his poetic voice. The book would go on to become one of the most influential collections of Russian poetry of the twentieth century. “The Poems of Yury Zhivago” are a part of the poet’s famous novel, Dr. Zhivago, whose title might be rendered in English as “Doctor Life.” These later lyrics are a kind of summing up that reflect, from the perspective of age and approaching death, upon the accumulated experience of a contemplative life amid turbulent and terrifying times.
Falen’s fresh new translations of these poems capture their expression of the beauty and the joy, the terror and the pain, of what it is to be alive . . . and to die.
About the Author
Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (10 February 1890 – 30 May 1960) was a Nobel Prize-winning Russian and Soviet poet of Jewish descent, novelist and translator of Goethe and Shakespeare. In Russia, Pasternak is most celebrated as a poet. My Sister Life, written in 1917, is one of the most influential collections of poetry published in the Russian language in the 20th century. In the West he is best known for his epic novel Doctor Zhivago, a tragedy whose events span the last period of the Russian Empire and the early days of the Soviet Union.
James E. Falen is an emeritus professor of Russian at the University of Tennessee. He is the translator of acclaimed editions of Pushkin’s Selected Lyric Poetry (NUP). Falen’s translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin is widely considered to be the one most faithful to Pushkin’s spirit.
"To read the poems of Pasternak is to get one's throat clear, to fortify one's breathing." —Osip Mandelstam
"My Sister Life! The first thing I did, when I'd borne it all, from the first blow to the last, was spread my arms out wide, so that all the joints cracked. I was caught in a downpour...a downpour of light." —Marina Tsvetaeva