In the West, Pasternak is best known for his monumental tragic satire on Soviet Russia, Dr Zhivago. It is as a poet, however, that he is most celebrated in Russia. He is one of a quartet of truly great poets to emerge in the dark year's of Stalin's reign, the others being Anna Akhmatova, Marina Tsvetaeva and Osip Mandelstam.
The son of a Jewish Muscovite professor at the Moscow School of Painting, and a mother who was a famous concert pianist, Pasternak was brought up in a cosmopolitan atmosphere. He studied philosophy at the Marburg University in Germany, returning to Moscow in 1914 and published his first collection of poetry in that year.
During the war he taught and worked at a chemical factory in the Urals; this undoubtedly was to give him material for Dr Zhivago many years later.
The revolution of 1917 led to Pasternak quickly garnering fame as a poet.
He fell out of favour with the Soviet authorities in the 1930s; accused of subjectivism he somehow managed to escape the gulags.
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