Skip to main content


Showing posts from January 5, 2014

Pasternak Time: “Twelve versions of Hamlet”

Pasternak Time: “Twelve versions of Hamlet” Twelve versions of Hamlet Were found among his papers. Workmanlike, as critics say, Or was this, say, just an honest day’s pay In the worker’s paradise? The father will be obeyed, He will not be denied: Twelve versions of Hamlet Write and rewrite that writing counts And the state is corrupt, Lying all over the place. The established playgoer Watches the playacting prince Do his twelve versions of Hamlet So socially so really really real He could be mistaken For a social realist, While murders happen offstage, Women go mad for some reason, And you would dearly wish yourself To be living in another country. Where are the armies going now? What’s to laugh about in a graveyard? As one after another the leaders Are disappeared or reappeared Or kill each other out in the open With words or swords, Lying all over the place. The lucky ones leave at midnight For the writer’s dacha in yo

Pasternak Time: “Life herself comes about”

Pasternak Time: “Life herself comes about” Life herself comes about, The messages scramble to keep up. Once upon a time solitary for a while, Impossible not to see Every existence is wonder – He was a light-hearted, serious young man. Miracles are the vast trees against the blue, Trains riding over the hillsides, The healing silence and their faces. It was his to sort through until he found It is only his for now, It is not his. This someone, he enters trying to say how We are told there will be defeat, So when there is defeat We overcome. They were not always exactly to blame Who came to take him down. Only when empty again He raced to put the words in order Knowing it can never be enough. It is too late, it is not his. It is not ours, But we read Sensuous, personal, Angry, at the last fearless words, Entry after entry.  

Pasternak Time: “General Fear commands the theatre”

Pasternak Time: “General Fear commands the theatre” General Fear commands the theatre, His orders paralyse the provinces. Sycophants are victims by daybreak, Bragging dogs go silent. Up in the gods they hold breath Who prefer to attend nameless; His box is empty after interval, The players sigh with relief. Out on the Front his same old words Are enough for macho souls Who by nightfall will be more Of his brave, misplaced statistics. But it’s into the best Red surgery he goes. They attend to his secret wound While his thieving mistress jokes outside On her thirteenth cigarette. She’ll be a footnote in biographies. His kind of cancer’s inoperable. The curtain will fall on old wars As the provinces go out for a stroll.

Pasternak Time: “Cities stained with gold”

Pasternak Time: “Cities stained with gold” Cities stained with gold, Their streets rife with snowy walkers, Their apartments edged with extra masterpieces. Their promises increase with youth. The promises of cities – Vast as the shifting panorama, Qualified by insistent commitments, Oblique in their midlife directions – Prove transitory, youth itself. Someone should lighten up, Turn crude surface into gold, Take that choice even then inevitable, Make the hard decision. Not that the revolution would win, No one said that, No one said that then. The revolution came into the cities, Came with its own youthful ways, With its speeches and kitchen cabinets, With its own desolations.  

Sentences in ‘Doctor Zhivago’ by Boris Pasternak

The grassy smell of earth and young greenery made your head ache, like the smell of vodka and pancakes in the week before Lent. (page 84) The book fills up effortlessly with resonant descriptions. Having only this week started a book the plot of which I have known for over forty years, it is these close descriptions, together with the internal thoughts of the main characters, that stun with their immediacy. Here, for example, is an analogy that isn’t an analogy, more like an opportunity to raise up the evocation, for indeed nature and religion are at one in this seasonal image. Where else but Russia? we think And its reality of “vodka and pancakes” only enriches the nostalgia. We observe Lent at the end of the sentence, wondering in anticipation whether the church seasons will be mentioned in the same intimate way after the Revolution in 1917, or if they will be slowly replaced in the narrative by other ways of marking out time. Only by reading the book will we find