17 NOVEMBER 1961, Page 22

Mr. Conquest, for one, is prepared to admit.

It is an outline, with documents, of the whole nastiness, from the immediate results of the Publication of Zhivago in Italy to the recent sen- tencing of Pasternak's friend Olga Ivinskaya for receiving Zhivago royalties introduced from the West. What puzzles me is whether—according to his main title—Mr. Conquest wishes to ex- hibit the `courage of genius,' or whether— according to his sub-title—his chief intent is to give a `report' on the 'literary and political sig- nificance' of the affair. Is he illuminating genius or having a cold swipe at Moscow?

I should think, on the documents, that the affair might be very shortly summarised in this Way: that Pasternak, a great poet of moral and historical insight and bravery, behaved as such a man should behave, though with some naivety, and that Moscow officialdom, literary- Political and political, behaved stupidly and Monstrously in accord with its system, though a little less stupidly and monstrously than might have been expected. Also that the West, not a little shamelessly and hypocritically, contributed more to the filthy muddle, the misery, the Cruelty and the stupidity than Western


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The Correspondence between STRAUSS & HOFMANNSTHAL

Introduction by Edward Sackville-West.

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`Devastating and brilliant' collection of satirical cartoons from the author of Sick Sick Sick. HOOKS OF THE MONTH 12s 6d Pasternak seemed naïve in expecting that Dr. Zhivago would or could be accepted as a book above politics, or at least that it could or would be realised that, in his own words, he had 'borne witness as an artist.' Not to accept or realise either truth suited both the cold Western warriors and the Russian orthodox. It was specifically as a poet and a novelist that Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize by the Swedish Academy, after Zhivago had been refused pub- lication in Russia, after it had been published in the West and after the trouble of the Union of Soviet Writers against Pasternak had begun. Mr. Conquest uses a good many pages to say that this was in no way a political or ideological counter-award, and to prove that, on his stand- ing as a European poet, Pasternak was in any case fit—but of course he was—to receive the prize. It is possible to be too innocent about the Swedish Academicians. They must have knoim that Zhivago had already been de- lightedly announced and reviewed and adver- tised and regaled as an anti-Soviet masterpiece, so that five minutes' thought could (or should? —but that is another matter) have convinced these good gentlemen that if in such circum- stances they gave the prize to Pasternak, then far from assuring and underwriting his economic and creative future, they might be killing him, or at any rate making it certain that if he wasn't killed he would be all the more harassed, in- jured and humiliated. They could have waited and given him the award another year, if by then the shemozzle had died away or died down. But they didn't, and some day it should be ex- plained why they didn't. Just before I opened Mr. Conquest's docu- mentary-cum-commentary on these matters, I happened to have been reading De Quincey's Savannah-la-Mar. 'God smote Savannah-la-mar' and its children with an earthquake, and the Dark Interpreter explained to De Quincey that earthquakes and sorrow were the fierce plough- shares of God's agriculture, necessary for stir- ring the stubborn soil of the strange children of Earth, so that they might. understand. OK for God, maybe. But it seems to me that in making the award the Swedish Academicians, if they weren't acting more than the least little human bit politically or ideologically, were all too grandly playing the Dark Interpreter's God— and damn the consequences to mere living Pasternak; or else that they were all too naively acting as God proposing and God disposing, in a supposedly innocuous vacuum of perfect Soviet goodness, sweetness and understanding.

Pasternak was clearly in two minds before very long, between immediate pleasure at the award and• gathering contempt, not of the Swedish Academy, but of the Western journalis- tic furore (which Mr. Conquest hardly docu- ments at all, though why?). To have been made an earthquake victim for the ultimate instruction of the mysterious children of the Earth may in the end have given satisfaction to this great man; but he knew that he was being used as well CI could not imagine that I would be in the centre of such a political campaign as started to be fanned around my name in the West,' Pasternak to Khrushchev, November 1, 1958. `Do people buy Dr. Zhivago because it is a good book or only because they think it is anti- Communist?' Pasternak to an interviewer, Sep- tember 30, 1959). I would put it to Mr. Conquest, and Mr. Conquest's readers, that he also is using Pasternak, not as clearly or shoddily or sensationally as some people in the West have Used him, not as clearly as some of the poli-

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