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.