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Doctor Zhivago - Part 1 (Chapters 1-4)

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Doctor Zhivago - Part 1 (Chapters 1-4)

Post Number:#1  Postby Scott » 13 Jan 2008, 18:23

This is the discussion thread for the first part of Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Please wait to read this thread until you have read the first part of Doctor Zhivago because this thread will contain spoilers. If you have read past the first part, please join this discussion, but do not discuss anything past the first part. (I will start the discussion for the whole book next Sunday.)

What do you think of the book so far? It seems interesting to me. The dialogue contains a lot of interesting discussion about ideas and such. It seems to me that it has a lot of death also.

Nikolai Nikolaievich is my favorite character. What do you think of him? I love reading his dialogue. Take for example (from chapter 1):

"Yes, there are gifted men," said Nikolai Nikolaievich; "but the fashion nowadays is all for groups and societies of every sort. Gregariousness is always the refuge of mediocrities, whether they swear by Soloviëv or Kant or Marx. Only individuals seek the truth, and they shun those whose sole concern is not the truth. How many things in the world deserve our loyalty? Very few indeed. I think one should be loyal to immortality, which is another word for life, a stronger word for it. One must be true to immortality—true to Christ! Ah, you’re turning up your nose, my poor man. As usual, you haven’t understood a thing."


Shortly after, he goes on to say:

"...one must be true to Christ. I’ll explain. What you don’t understand is that it is possible to be an atheist, it is possible not to know whether God exists, or why, and yet believe that man does not live in a state of nature but in history, and that history as we know it now began with Christ, and that Christ’s Gospel is its foundation. Now what is history? It is the centuries of systematic explorations of the riddle of death, with a view to overcoming death. That’s why people discover mathematical infinity and electromagnetic waves, that’s why they write symphonies. Now, you can’t advance in this direction without a certain faith. You can’t make such discoveries without spiritual equipment. And the basic elements of this equipment are in the Gospels. What are they? To begin with, love of one’s neighbor, which is the supreme form of vital energy. Once it fills the heart of man it has to overflow and spend itself. And then the two basic ideals of modern man—without them he is unthinkable—the idea of free personality and the idea of life as sacrifice. Mind you, all this is still extraordinarily new. There was no history in this sense among the ancients. They had blood and beastliness and cruelty and pockmarked Caligulas who do not suspect how untalented every enslaver is. They had the boastful dead eternity of bronze monuments and marble columns. It was not until after the coming of Christ that time and man could breathe freely. It was not until after Him that men began to live toward the future. Man does not die in a ditch like a dog—but at home in history, while the work toward the conquest of death is in full swing; he dies sharing in this work."


Sorry to post such a long quote, but I like it and it made me very interested in the book. What do you think? Are there any quotes from the book that you like and want to post? If so, please do.

Also, please post questions of your own for me and the other readers.

Thanks,
Scott
Last edited by Scott on 20 Jan 2008, 20:44, edited 1 time in total.
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Post Number:#2  Postby knightss » 18 Jan 2008, 17:50

I find the book very interesting so far (i'm a little past part 1). Every once in a while it seems that Pasternak with throw some type of existentialist writing into the novel.. and briefly, for a page or two, it seems as if the subject matter becomes very deep. In a sense, it adds weight to the novel. Dr. Zhivago's non-chalantness throughout the novel (at least that's what i pick up from him) explodes into speeches on his true beliefs. He makes an interesting character I think.

The novel reminds me a little of A Farewell To Army by Hemingway. (Medical doctor on the front who, coming home to his wife and family) Which is also set in WWI but on the Italian Front.

I think the book gives an amazing look into the rise and life of Soviet Russia. As a History Major, I've always wondered what Russia looked like internally during the turmoil of WWI and the revolution. The account seems very accurate although the story is fictitious.

I seem to often get confused with Russian Literature because of the names and nicknames. Sometimes I find it hard to distinguish between who is who... some characters will end up having 3-5 different names all together that are shortenings of their original names. Does this happen to anyone else or do I stand alone? lol

Scott, I really enjoyed those quotes from Nikolai too but i'm really enjoying watching Zhivago's growth... or at this point, decadence.


I could say more but i think i'll end it here lol my post is rather long =x.
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Post Number:#3  Postby Dori » 18 Jan 2008, 18:45

I just finished "Part I" last night. I also like Nikolai Nikolaievich, but he isn't my favorite character. There was a quote in the conversation between Ivan Ivanovich and Nikolai in which I particularly liked:

"That's metaphysics, my dear fellow. It's forbidden by my doctors, my stomach won't take it." (Part I, Chapter 1, Section 5)


I was interested in the conversation that lead up to this (quoted by Scott), but this made me laugh.

I think my favorite character is Dr. Zhivago. I liked the following quote about him:

He was a painter who was always making sketches for a big canvas he had in mind. (Part I, Chapter 3, Section 2)


There was a passage in the book that I could definately relate to. Oh, I found it:

Tonia, [Yura's] old friend, who had alwaysbeen taken for granted and had never needed explaining, had turned out to be the most inaccessible and complicated being he could imagine. She had become a woman. By a stretch of the imagination he could visualize himself as an emperor, a hero, a prophet, a conqueror, but not as a woman. (Part I, Chapter 3, Section 10)


Something most men can relate to, I think. :wink:

On a side note: I was confronted today by several teachers because I carried this book to all my classes. My chemistry teacher, my French teacher, my former History teacher, and another faculty member asked me what I thought of the book. I was extremely surprised, as you might imagine.

knightss, you'll get used to the Russian names if you read enough Russian lit. :wink:
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Post Number:#4  Postby knightss » 18 Jan 2008, 19:05

Tonia, [Yura's] old friend, who had alwaysbeen taken for granted and had never needed explaining, had turned out to be the most inaccessible and complicated being he could imagine. She had become a woman. By a stretch of the imagination he could visualize himself as an emperor, a hero, a prophet, a conqueror, but not as a woman. (Part I, Chapter 3, Section 10)


I thought that quote was great too :lol:
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Post Number:#5  Postby Scott » 18 Jan 2008, 19:16

I find the names hard to remember not just because they have nicknames, but also because I am not familiar with the names themselves. It's easier for me to remember a name like John than any of those Russian names.

I like the way the story takes Soviet history and puts it in normal light. When I think of the Soviet Union or Russian history, it all seems so dramatic to me. But reading the story and even when the characters refer to real, major events, it comes off as something that is happening in the lives of ordinary folks. I guess what I am trying to say is that it makes the place and time period seem more relatable and realistic to me.
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Post Number:#6  Postby Dori » 18 Jan 2008, 19:38

Scott Hughes wrote:I find the names hard to remember not just because they have nicknames, but also because I am not familiar with the names themselves. It's easier for me to remember a name like John than any of those Russian names.


I guess I've become familiar with Russian names. It seems like there's an "Ivan" or a "Nikolai" in every piece of Russian lit I've read. But I do, nonetheless, agree with you.

Scott Hughes wrote:I like the way the story takes Soviet history and puts it in normal light. When I think of the Soviet Union or Russian history, it all seems so dramatic to me. But reading the story and even when the characters refer to real, major events, it comes off as something that is happening in the lives of ordinary folks. I guess what I am trying to say is that it makes the place and time period seem more relatable and realistic to me.


Yes, I feel that way too. I love novels that do this.
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Post Number:#7  Postby knightss » 18 Jan 2008, 21:14

Have either of you watched the movie yet? I haven't, I obtained a copy but I'm waiting until I finish the book to watch it =)

Also, have either of you read or watched A Farewell to Arms?
The movie is excellent, Helen Hayes was a hottie, God rest her soul.
Definitely a movie worth seeing, it came out in 1932.
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Post Number:#8  Postby Dori » 19 Jan 2008, 09:41

knightss wrote:Have either of you watched the movie yet? I haven't, I obtained a copy but I'm waiting until I finish the book to watch it =)

Also, have either of you read or watched A Farewell to Arms?
The movie is excellent, Helen Hayes was a hottie, God rest her soul.
Definitely a movie worth seeing, it came out in 1932.


I haven't seen the movie. But I've heard from many people that they liked it.

I haven't read or watched A Farewell to Arms. I'll be on the lookout for the book and/or movie.
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Post Number:#9  Postby Sanya » 22 Jan 2008, 15:27

I'm interesting to take part in this discussion but there is one thing which bothers me. I'm not a native speaker of English and so far I couldn't find printed or online version of the book, apart from those notes. I only have my simplified version which is, I suppose, rather poor comparing with original.

So, my questions are: is it possible to take part in this discussion anyway, and does anyone know a site with the whole text book in English.
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Post Number:#10  Postby Scott » 22 Jan 2008, 15:58

I have not seen the movie, but I want to see it now that I have read the book. I don't think I've seen A Farewell to Arms either.

Sanya wrote:I'm interesting to take part in this discussion but there is one thing which bothers me. I'm not a native speaker of English and so far I couldn't find printed or online version of the book, apart from those notes. I only have my simplified version which is, I suppose, rather poor comparing with original.

So, my questions are: is it possible to take part in this discussion anyway, and does anyone know a site with the whole text book in English.

I have sent it to your email address.

Thanks,
Scott
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Post Number:#11  Postby Sanya » 23 Jan 2008, 10:00

Scott, thank you a lot.

I received it. It seems all right. Now there’s a real challenge to read it.

About the film, I haven’t seen it although it’s been on TV app. thousands of time. Might be I wait until read the book first too.
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