Anna Pasternak Speaks Of the Woman Who Inspired Boris Pasternak's Dr Zhivago at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Writer Anna Pasternak has expressed concerns that “a measure of censorship” in Russia means she might not know if the translation of her latest book is “true to the original”.

The great-niece of Doctor Zhivago author Boris Pasternak, her book Lara tells the true love story that inspired it for the first time. “It is being published this autumn in Russia,” Anna told the Edinburgh International Book Festival, “[but] one of my great regrets is I do not speak Russian, [so] how will I know if the translation is true to the original? Even today, I think there is a measure of censorship going on in Russia.”

But Pasternak added that it would still be “riveting” to see the reaction of Russians to her book, also revealing that she has sold the rights for Lara to be made into a six-part television series, currently at the script-writing stage. “That was the other thing when I started doing the research,” she said, “I saw it as so visual and I hope I’ve written it in a way that conveys the visual scope of this.

“I mean Olga’s description of her time in the gulag is quite incredible, and there’s so much that’s so visually rich in this. It is a story almost on a par with Doctor Zhivago – the real story – although it’s slightly different in that it’s just such an incredible dramatic story [because of] everything that Olga went through. She’s such an outstanding heroine, she really is.”

The book focuses on Boris Pasternak’s muse, literary journalist Olga Ivanskaya, who was twice sent to Siberian labour camps because of her love for the author. Because the book she inspired was critical of the October Revolution, it was refused publication in the Soviet Union and instead smuggled to Milan and published in 1957, earning Boris Pasternak the Nobel Prize for Literature the following year. Doctor Zhivago was made into a film by David Lean in 1965.

DAVID TORRANCE

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