On this day in 1890, Boris Leonidovich Pasternak was born in Moscow, the Russian Empire. He is best known outside of Russia for his novel Doctor Zhivago. While parts of the book were written in the 1910s and 1920s, it wasn’t completed until 1956, and was published in Italy in 1957, only four years before his death. The book was banned in the Soviet Union.
Boris Pasternak was raised by his father Leonid Pasternak, the Post-Impressionist painter who illustrated for Leo Tolstoy, and his mother, the concert pianist Rosa Kaufman.
Through the turbulent years of the Russian Revolution, World War I, the Great Purge, and World War II, Pasternak wrote poetry and prose, composed music, did translations, and stuck it out in his homeland while others left. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1958, which may have prevented him from arrest, due to the pressures of the international community. The Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made a phone call to Khrushchev that reportedly prevented Pasternak’s deportation. The Pasternak family papers are located at Stanford University.