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Doctor Zhivago, On The Road published on this day in history


Published 50 years ago today, Doctor Zhivago was heralded at the time as a great literary event, but new details are now also emerging of the significance of its political role during the Cold War. The story of the book itself was already worthy of a thriller, but Moscow based researcher Ivan Tolstoy now claims to have found evidence proving that MI6 and the CIA were jointly responsible for organizing the first appearance of the novel in Russian.

Boris Pasternak started actively working on Doctor Zhivago in the 1940s and was to spend years writing what he considered to be the culmination of his life’s work. The novel recounts the story of a doctor, Yuri Zhivago and his love for two different women, poetically contrasting the power of his feelings with the brutality of the world around him. Pasternak was a writer, not a dissident, but he was still very much aware of the political dimension of his masterpiece, admitting in a private letter that ‘the freedom of spirit with which existence is represented in the work’ would create serious difficulties in getting the novel published.

This novel is currently featured on AbeBook’s United Kingdom website and the full feature on Doctor Zhivago can be read here.

Published just a single year prior, Jack Kerouac’s One The Road was possibly the most popular work from the legendary beat generation of writers. Last year, AbeBooks wrote a feature commemorating the half century since its publication, and our On The Road feature is available here. Also on the site is a rare 1968 interview with Jack Kerouac.

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