The Poetry and Prose of Boris Pasternak (1928)
In contemporary Russian literature, if we see it not as what it has been, still is and perhaps always will be, but as what it is steadily becoming before our eyes — though we may believe that it will never become it — nothing is more interesting, or more essential to an understanding of its present transitory meaning, than the poetry and prose of Pasternak. Not because My Sister Life, Themes and Variations, The Lofty Malady, Aerial Ways or The Year 1905 are in themselves anything outstanding, authoritative or deeply meaningful, but simply because all these works, while not ordinary, are yet average works; they do not outweigh their age, they merely indicate its weight; they are not important to humanity, they are significant only to literature. It is just because they are so central that they are more than mediocre; like a rudder without a helmsman, they mark the changing route of a ship that is no longer being steered. Now, to say that a literary ‘product’ is important to literature itself may indeed be to imply that there is skill and talent in it; the newness of its outward appearance, the unprecedented sound and flavour of its language, may give it a value that is irreplaceable and inalienable: these things are not to be ignored, and they exist in Pasternak’s writing. But all this is not enough. There remains the threshold, difficult to cross, between, on the one hand, the ‘mere writer’1 who reveals, albeit with the utmost clarity, the technical possibilities of his craft in his age, and who may even have expanded or renewed them, and on the other hand the poet, who creates a new world, a new heaven and earth, in the image and likeness of the elemental force by which he is possessed.
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.