Stalked by Zhivago

by Lara Killian

10 September 2009


Ever feel like a certain title is following you? Strategically placing itself on bookstore shelves and friends’ bookcases just to block your path?

Last weekend while on a short weekend trip involving training for a new job, I started to get the feeling it might be time to pick up Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago (1957) once again. Someone was trying to tell me something.

I first started this work of Russian literature ten years ago as an undergraduate English major after stumbling across it in the central library of my university. Being named for one of the central characters, it has long been on my list of must-reads. Timing was the only question. With other (required) texts competing for attention, I only got halfway through Zhivago.

History repeats itself. Last weekend I found a used copy in a hostel on the way to the retreat and considered taking it with me, but the first few pages were marked up with a red pen, as though a child had started drawing circles on consecutive pages. I felt slightly disappointed. One we arrived at our island getaway a few hours later I was surprised to find, alongside numerous discarded airport bookstore bestsellers, another early edition of Pasternak’s novel, this one lovingly inscribed over fifty years ago as a gift.


I couldn’t take that copy with me as it belonged at the cabin, but I retained the sense that it might be time once again to find a copy and read the story that inspired my parents to name me Lara.


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