Mention ‘Dr Zhivago’ and people will recall the 1965 blockbuster movie, not Pasternak’s novel published in 1958. Not surprising, because the movie focuses on the emotive love story. The book, on the other hand, reveals the complexity of the events of that tumultuous period in Russia’s history (from 1905 to the Second World War) and their influence on human relationships. The screen fails to capture the depth and enduring relevance of the ideas that have made the novel a classic. Reading close to 600 pages requires more commitment than watching a 3-hour movie, but the reader gains an unforgettable understanding of how individual lives can get caught up in tragic political and social upheavals, the difficult choices one is then forced to make, and the courage needed to act with dignity and humanity when under stress. Even just the dramatic events leading to the publication of Dr Zhivago hold lessons valid for our own time, when books and ideas regularly kick up storms. And the story of how Pasternak weathered this storm has a connection with India.
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