In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
Angela Livingstone, ed. Pasternak on Art and Creativity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985. 292 pp. No price given.

As editor (and translator) of a book that is devoted to Pasternak's: views on art and creativity, Angela Livingstone assumes a difficult task: to put together an exhibit on artistic theory from diverse areas of Pasternak's writing, e.g., criticism, fiction, speeches, and notes. She of course acknowledges that an accumulation of Pasternak's pronouncements about art is not only inconclusive but also unintentional, [End Page 682] that Pasternak's philosophy of art is, in a word, incomplete. She also acknowledges that Pasternak's numerous judgments on art have not been collected and that such a collection would put these judgments into perspective. To this end she makes the following available in English: early prose fragments, "Some Propositions," "The Black Goblet," Safe Conduct, several speeches, "Paul-Marie Verlaine," "Chopin," notes on translation, and excerpts from "Autobiographical Sketch" and Doctor Zhivago. Her introduction to each of these selections sets the stage for more than one perspective on Pasternak's approach to art.

New exhibits need guides. In this role, Livingstone is indispensible, for Pasternak's central artistic positions, presented side by side for the first time, demonstrate several areas of development rather than a systematic evolution. More than once Livingstone cautions us about Pasternak's idiosyncratic notion of realism. Indeed, few authors would view, for example, Verlaine and Chopin as realists. Few authors, according to Livingstone, share Pasternak's perception of art. She in fact places Pasternak at one end of the spectrum of artistic perception not far from Marina Tsvetaeva. At the other end, she places Osip Mandelstam. On this very spectrum, surprisingly close to Pasternak, she places Wordsworth, whose view of the artistic process, she claims, is close to that of Pasternak. The parallels that she cites in The Prelude and Safe Conduct testify to this closeness and suggest further comparison.

Pasternak's perception of art, Livingstone maintains, is associated with cries for help, speed, change, motion, interrelatedness, displacement, and decenteredness. Underscoring these associations, she does not attempt to establish a hierarchy among them or suggest a common denominator according to which all or some of them could be reduced. She does, however, refer to Pasternak's notion of power or force (sila) as fundamental to his artistic stance. It is namely this power or force that lies behind Pasternak's boundless awe, his delight in the manifestations of life, his sense of harmony with all things, his source of inspiration.

While considering Pasternak's artistic imperatives, Livingstone says nothing about the inescapable imperatives of socialist realism. Certainly, no one would claim that Pasternak's artistic beliefs are an extension of socialist realism. On the other hand, no one could claim that these beliefs coincide with formalism or art for art's sake. Before classifying Pasternak's singular artistic prerequisites, it should be recalled that after his break with futurism he came to advocate a very accessible art, a simplification of style, and a life-affirming message. What were to become Pasternak's highest artistic principles, namely his insistence on the bond between life and art and his devaluation of the individual, cannot be hidden under a metaphysical carpet. Pasternak, like other Russian writers of the Soviet period, is not free of what Bakhtin calls a "sideward glance," especially in regard to artistic theory.

Livingstone devotes eighty-eight pages of this collection to commentary. But consider above all what she makes available to students and scholars. Not only does she update the work of the first generation of translators that turned to Pasternak, but she also renders a number of Pasternak's essays into English for the first time. Her translation of Okhrannaya gramota, which is the centerpiece of this collection, is a fitting successor to the work of Beatrice Scott published originally in 1959 by New Directions (Signet) in an edition entitled Safe Conduct. It is possible to compare a sample of Scott's and Livingstone's art of translation in the [End Page 683] following well known passage: "It was born from the conflicting currents of these trends, from the difference in their...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 682-684
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.