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The Zhivago Affair

Nonfiction: Literary Criticism / Politics / History / Soviet Union
Unabridged   9.75 hour(s)
Publication date: 06/17/2014

The Zhivago Affair

The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book

Available from major retailers or BUY FROM AMAZON
Audio CD ISBN:9781622314362
Digital Download ISBN:9781598871241


The dramatic, never-before-told story of how a forbidden book in the Soviet Union became a secret CIA weapon in the ideological battle between East and West.

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Product Description

In May of 1956, an Italian publishing scout took a train to the Russian countryside to visit the country’s most beloved poet, Boris Pasternak. He left concealing the original manuscript of Pasternak’s much anticipated first novel, entrusted to him with these words from the author: “This is Doctor Zhivago. May it make its way around the world.”

Pasternak knew his novel would never be published in the Soviet Union, where the authorities regarded it as an assault on the 1917 Revolution, so he allowed it to be published in translation all over the world. But in 1958, the CIA, which recognized that the Cold War was above all an ideological battle, published Doctor Zhivago in Russian and smuggled it into the Soviet Union where it was snapped up on the black market and passed surreptitiously from friend to friend. Pasternak, whose funeral in 1960 was attended by thousands of readers who stayed for hours in defiance of the watching KGB, launched the great Soviet tradition of the writer-dissident. With sole access to otherwise classified CIA files, the authors give us an irresistible portrait of the charming and passionate Pasternak and a twisting Cold War thriller that takes us back to a time when literature had power to shape the world.


“A story expertly told by Finn and Couvée, who unsparingly present the role played by the Kremlin in persecuting Pasternak and his loved ones, as well as the role of the CIA in using his masterpiece in a game of ideological warfare—overall, a triumphant reminder that truth is sometimes gloriously stranger than fiction.”
      —Publishers Weekly [HC starred review]

“A fast-paced political thriller about a book that terrified a nation.”
      —Kirkus Reviews

“Groundbreaking reporting and character-rich storytelling. . . . Almost makes one nostalgic for a time when novels were so important that even the CIA cared about them.”
      —Ken Kalfus, author of A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

“A thrilling literary espionage yarn, but much more than that.”
      —Michael Dobbs, author of Six Months in 1945

“A sparkling and fascinating account.”
      —David E. Hoffman, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Dead Hand

“The most detailed account to date of the events that suddenly placed one of Russia’s greatest poets in the center of the struggle between Soviet and Western propaganda machines at the height of the Cold War.”
      —Richard Pevear, co-translator of Doctor Zhivago

Author Bio

PETER FINN is a national security correspondent for The Washington Post, and previously served as the Post’s bureau chief in Moscow. He was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for the Post’s coverage of the wars in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

PETRA COUVÉE is a writer, translator and teacher. She has translated the work of numerous Russian writers into Dutch. She is an affiliated researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands and teaches Dutch each spring at Moscow State University.

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