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Ralph Matlaw. Visit to Pasternak

Научные исследования: 


For citation: Sergeeva-Klyatis A. Ralph Matlaw. Visit to Pasternak // Mediascope. 2021. Issue 1. Available at:

DOI: 10.30547/mediascope.1.2021.7


@ Anna Yu. Sergeeva-Klyatis

Doctor of Philology, Professor at the Chair of Literary and Art Criticism and Journalism, Faculty of Journalism, Lomonosov Moscow State University (Moscow, Russia)



Memoirs of the philologist and specialist in Slavic studies Ralph Matlaw, who visited B. Pasternak in 1959, are published in Russian language for the first time. Their conversation is of undoubted interest not only for the biographer, but also for the researcher of Pasternak's work, since it contains a number of the writer's most considerable judgments about the novel ‘Doctor Zhivago’, its structure, images, the main idea and features of the author's view. From this conversation, it becomes clear that Pasternak looked at the novel as a completely innovative work, not continuing, but updating – defamiliarizing - the tradition of the classic Russian novel

Key words: B. Pasternak, novel ‘Doctor Zhivago’, tradition and innovation, Edmund Wilson, symbolic interpretation



Issledovanie vypolneno za schet sredstv granta na fundamental'noe issledovanie RFFI №20-012-00110 A [The study is carried out at the expense of a grant of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research №20-012-00110 А.].

See the letter to de Proyart Jacqueline from May 20, 1959 // Pasternak B. Complete works in 11 volumes. M., 2003-2005. Vol. 10. P. 488-490.

In a letter to his friends in Germany, Pasternak wrote, ‘It has always surprised me that the given, legalized, factual and accepted for truth are not created once and for all, life constantly overflows all vessels, and in addition to all the countless physical and mental movements in space and time, life itself, as an indivisible phenomenon of the world as a whole, is covered by rapid movement - everything is present and is accomplished as if it is endless inspiration, choice and freedom.’ (The letter from May 12, 1959 // Pasternak B. Completed works in 11 volumes. Vol. 10. P. 482).

In the same letter, Pasternak spoke about Wilson's article: ‘It is a big mistake to represent the novel as a dump of individual symbolic landmarks all the way to proper names (Moreau and Vetchinkin, etc.), as it occurs in some articles’ (Ibid., P. 481). The same is in a letter to de Proyart Jacqueline: ‘I wanted to write to Helene about the widespread misinterpretation of my style. Even such an expert as Edmund Wilson joined it. They search for the hidden meaning in every syllable of the novel, unscramble words, street names and the names of heroes as allegories and cryptograms. I don't have any of that.’ (The letter from May 20, 1959 // Pasternak B. Complete works in 11 volumes. M., 2003-2005. Vol. 10. P. 488).