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Pasternak and the Spooks

When Roy Jenkins, one of the four founders of the Social Democratic Party of Britain and lately yet another acclaimed biographer of Winston Churchill, was asked his opinion about the covert funding of Encounter magazine by the CIA, he replied: … Read More

By / January 30, 2007

When Roy Jenkins, one of the four founders of the Social Democratic Party of Britain and lately yet another acclaimed biographer of Winston Churchill, was asked his opinion about the covert funding of Encounter magazine by the CIA, he replied: "Good for the CIA." That a Western espionage agency was enabling a reputed cold war journal of opinion might have been cause for concern, or genuine scandal, save for the fact that Encounter still printed excellent stuff and its contributors (not to say editors) knew nothing of where the money came from. And even if they did know, so what? The Kremlin's repression of internal dissent and its suffocation of art and culture in Russia and the nations of the Warsaw Pact remained unchanged even if the CIA was the organization issuing the J'accuse.

A moral take-away very much like this applies to the news that Boris Pasternak's masterpiece, Doctor Zhivago, had its Russian edition bank-rolled by Langley, too:

"Pasternak's novel became a tool that was used by the United States to teach the Soviet Union a lesson," Tolstoy said in a telephone interview from Prague, where he works as a Russian commentator for the U.S. government-funded radio stations. The novelist knew nothing of the CIA's action, according to Tolstoy and the writer's family.

Tolstoy said his book, "The Laundered Novel," is based on more than a decade of research and will be released later this year, the 50th anniversary of the publication of "Doctor Zhivago." He previewed its contents in a recent lecture in Moscow.

Again, good for the CIA. This diminishes Pasternak's accomplishment not one iota.

Even Valerie Plame might be a more competent judge to have in Stockholm than the sorry lot picking the laureates these days.

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