A handsome volume of prose works by Boris Pasternak has been published here in a move that marked the almost complete rehabilitation of the writer who was once publicly reviled as a "literary traitor."
The publication two weeks ago of the 500-page volume, which was edited by his sons Leonid and Yevgeny, caused a major stir in Moscow's intellectual world.
Printed in an edition of 100,000 copies, the book seems to have been sold out overnight. The only place where some copies were still available today was a shop selling books to foreigners for hard currency.
It has been 22 years since the author of "Dr. Zhivago" died here amid a controversy over his winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958. As the controversy died down in the 1970s, Pasternak was forgiven his political sins and was formally acclaimed as one of the country's great poets. No book of his prose has ever been published here, however.
The collection of his prose works--all important short stories and novellas are included but not "Dr. Zhivago"--includes a laudatory preface by academician Dmitri Likhachev. It contains 73 reproductions of drawings made by Pasternak's father, Leonid, a prominent Russian painter in the first decades of this century.
The Nobel Award controversy, which involved even the official decision about Pasternak's burial place, caused great bitterness here. A senior government figure at the time called Pasternak "a pig who has fouled the spot where he eats and cast filth on those by whose labor he lives and breathes." A representative of the writers union called him "a literary whore, hired and kept in America's anti-Soviet brothel."
The novelist Boris Polevoi, who called Pasternak a "literary traitor" during the controversy, led the drive for Pasternak's partial rehabilitation in the mid-1970s. He said Pasternak had been misjudged by those who condemned him totally as a writer.
"He is one of the greatest poets of this century," Polevoi wrote in 1975. As a prose writer, however, "Pasternak was a great child," Polevoi added, saying he "did not understand politics and his novel became a weapon in the Cold War."
The preface to the new book "Vozdushniye Puti" ("Aerial Ways") by Likhachev makes no mention of "Dr. Zhivago." Instead Likhachev, one of the country's greatest experts on Russian literature, talks about Pasternak's prose in general.
"To read his prose," Likhachev says, "is like panning gold in gold sand. There is an abundance of gold but you have to get it out. But the effort you put into it is in itself precious. The reader is immediately affected by gold rush symptoms and is irresistibly drawn toward the spiritual and literary enrichment" Pasternak's prose provides.
There are some "impurities," Likhachev continues, "but they have to be understood" because they come from "an abundance of impressions." And "apart from gold there are also gems," he says giving examples of the writer's use of language.
Likhachev called Pasternak a "rebel against everything that was hidebound and immobile" and says he was "a true son of his time" and a "product" of the Russian and Bolshevik revolution. "He cannot be understood outside the context of his time, the context of revolution and war," he adds.
Cultural observers here say now that it is only a matter of time before "Dr. Zhivago" is finally published here in Russian. It has been published widely abroad in the Russian and many other languages.