I have a gorgeous copy of Doctor Zhivago and I have previously enjoyed the book (by comparison with other Russian novels) and I have seen not one but two film adaptations of the book and thus know who the characters are. This should be a recipe for extreme, resounding Russian-novel-reading success.
Instead of that, I had a middling amount of success. There are a lot of characters in Doctor Zhivago, and they all – you may have noticed – have different names. Several names. Full names, partial names, and nicknames. Eva, who knows about Russian things because she has been to Russia (y’all, it’s so cold there and no crawfish), says that there are specific nicknames for specific names, but I have not been reading Russian literature long enough to determine a pattern. Even with all of my (I just wrote nausea. I don’t know how to explain that) reading optimization things (previously mentioned), I still got very confused, and I had to go back.
Moreover I still do not like books in translation. The dialogue sounds stilted! I know that dialogue in English-language books does not accurately reflect the way real people speak in English, but if it’s stilted, it’s stilted in ways I’m used to. The people in Russian books are always saying things like “Tell me quickly, how did it all happen? So he died buried under the earth? Don’t conceal anything, don’t be afraid. I know everything.” Why, Russian novels? (Actually all novels in translation.) Nobody talks like that.
In short, I am fundamentally averse to books in translation. And yet I found myself engaged in the story. I kept thinking that I was bored of the book and didn’t want to carry on reading it, and every time I found myself thinking that, I also found myself unwilling to put the book down. Lara was an interesting character, and I loved how Pasternak portrayed her affair with Komarovsky. I wanted more Lara, and more Yuri, and of course more both of them together. So the aspects of this book I’ve been disliking are probably not the ones Frances says Nabokov disliked so thoroughly. I like melodrama, and I want Lara to come back. I miss Lara.
All this is not very insightful, I’m afraid. I feel like I am a smart girl and I should be able to say smarter things about this brilliant, award-winning novel, but this is all I’ve got for the moment. I read a really horrifying story in Catherine Gildiner’s new memoir, and I’m going to blame that for the currently squishy state of my brain.