Model for Dr. Zhivago's Lara Betrayed Pasternak to K.G.B.
|Olga Ivinskaja and Boris Pasternak|
There is no more enduring Russian love story than that of the writer Boris Pasternak and the woman who was the model for Lara, the radiant heroine of ''Doctor Zhivago.''
Except that now it seems that the real-life Lara, Pasternak's longtime mistress, muse and literary assistant, Olga Ivinskaya, informed on him to the K.G.B.
In 1961, while a prisoner of the Soviet gulag, where she was sent because of her association with Pasternak, Olga Ivinskaya wrote to Nikita Khrushchev begging for her freedom and reminding him of how she cooperated with the Government's efforts to silence the writer.
Ivinskaya told the Soviet leader how she tried to cancel the writer's meetings with foreigners, worked closely with the Central Committee to try and delay publication in the West of ''Doctor Zhivago,'' the epic novel of an idealistic Russian poet and his lover caught up in the turbulence of the Russian Revolution, and dissuaded Pasternak from leaving the Soviet Union after he was forced to turn down the Nobel Prize he won in 1958. The letter, recently released from archives that once belonged to the Communist Party's Central Committee, was published in extracts by the Moscow newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets earlier this month.
''I did everything in my power to avoid a misfortune, but it was beyond my capacity to neutralize everything at once,'' she wrote on March 10, 1961. ''I would like to make it clear that it was Pasternak himself who wrote the novel, it was he himself who received fees by a method he chose. One should not portray him as an innocent lamb.''
Publication of the letter astounded the literary circles where Pasternak remains a godlike figure. But there was more shock than anger.
Most Russians are all too aware of the compromises and betrayals millions of people were forced to commit to protect themselves and their families from the K.G.B. Few have a clear conscience. Many, including Pasternak's elder son, who described the article as ''insulting and disgusting,'' were appalled that a newspaper had sensationalized a desperate woman's last-ditch effort to save herself.
But a few were delighted by its revelations.
''It is the first concrete evidence that she cooperated with the K.G.B.,'' said Natalya Volkova, 70, director of the State Archives of Literature and Art. The archive is now in a bitter dispute with Ivinskaya's heirs over custody of a batch of Pasternak papers. ''But frankly speaking,'' she added with a sly smile, ''we guessed long ago.''
Mrs. Volkova is part of a small clique of scholars and intellectuals whose views can be summed up as ''Lara-Shmara.'' They readily believe Olga cooperated with intelligence services -- very few in her position did not.
But mostly they feel she vastly overrated her own importance both as a muse and as a lover.
''His second wife Zinaida was Pasternak's real guardian angel,'' Mrs. Volkova said. ''But,'' she added sourly, ''the mistress is always more interesting than the wife.''
Pasternak had a complicated personal life, but there is little question that he at one time loved Ivinskaya, wrote some of his greatest poems about her, and remained loyal to her until his death.
Americans mostly know the love story through the melancholy strains of ''Lara's theme'' from the soundtrack to a 1965 movie version of ''Doctor Zhivago'' that starred Julie Christie as Lara.
Pasternak met the woman who would serve as his model for Lara in 1946, when he was married, 56 and a famous poet, and she was a beautiful 34-year-old widow working at the literary magazine Novy Mir. He began writing ''Doctor Zhivago'' in 1948. It was banned by the Soviets, who considered it a slander of the Russian Revolution. In 1949, she was arrested and sentenced to four years of hard labor because of her association with Pasternak.
In her memoir, she said that while she was in prison, she miscarried Pasternak's baby. ''The relationship ended a few months before she was arrested,'' said Yevgeny Pasternak, who wrote a biography of his father. ''By then, they were not close, but she was in prison, and he helped her children.'' Mr. Pasternak added, ''I am certain that, had she never been arrested, they would not have been close.''
He said that, as a former convict, she was an obvious target for the K.G.B., but that his father, who knew of her weekly meetings with intelligence officials, always believed she defended him. Mr. Pasternak, however, seemed less certain. ''Instead,'' he said, ''she could have said God knows what about him.''
But he said he did not wish to judge her by a letter written when she was in the Gulag. ''When she was arrested a second time, what else could she do but write to Khrushchev?''
In 1953, when Ivinskaya was released from prison the first time, she moved into a small house near Pasternak's dacha in the writers' colony Peredelkino, and became his secretary and literary agent. He spent his days at her house, his nights with his wife and family. Shortly after he died, she was arrested and convicted of smuggling foreign currency -- the royalties she collected for Pasternak from the West.
She served four years, and was officially rehabilitated in 1988, the year ''Doctor Zhivago'' was finally published in Russia. She died in 1995 at the age of 83.
In her memoirs, ''A Captive of Our Time,'' she wrote that the authorities forced her to serve as an intermediary between them and Pasternak, and described how she tried to protect him from persecution.
She did not divulge the kind of informing or contacts with intelligence officers that she described in her letter to Khrushchev.
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