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Friday, 30 April 2010

The Story of Boris

Boris, left, with his brother.
I had an Uncle who was a rare book dealer. Several years ago, after his father's funeral, my cousin John told me this story.
Uncle Ben was interested in Russian literature and was reading a volume of poetry by Boris Pasternak, author of Doctor Zhivago. My grandfather came from Russia in 1906 in the wave of Jewish emmigration from that place at that time and, although he spoke good enough English, he never learned to read or write it. He saw the book had a photograph of the author on the back.
"That's my cousin Boris!" he said. "No, Dad, that's Boris Pasternak" said Uncle Ben, smiling indulgently.
Grandad (known to our large family as 'Pop') insisted it was his cousin so Uncle Ben set about researching it. Pasternak's father was an artist of renown and his mother a famous concert pianist. While he was growing up Tolstoy, Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Rilke were regular visitors to the house.
His father converted to Christianity and Boris went off to University and Pop never saw him again but he was proved to be right; all of the facts he gave Uncle Ben were verified and it turns out that Bazza's grandfather was Boris Pasternak's first cousin.
I think it means that I share about 1.5% of my genes with a Nobel Prize winner. Explains a lot don't you think?


klahanie said...

Hey bazza,
Fascinating story. So that means that 98.5% of you is not sharing the same genes.
Still, that will no doubt place you in with a heck of a chance of starring in the possible remake of the film 'Doctor Zhivago'. I'm sure you would look stunning in, for instance, a ushanka...
Take care, Gary :-)

David said...

Dear bazza,
I am currently reading "Anna Karenina", and seem to have taken a liking to all things Russian, in a literary sense, at least. As 1.5% of you shares this ancestry, then, you are obviously my kind of bloke. OK, so that just leaves, as Gary states, the other 98.5%!
Fascinating story Bazza,
Yours with Very Best Wishes,

bazza said...

Gary: I just had to look up what a ushanka was. Shame on me! I love those hats. I choose to look on the positive side and concentrate on the 1.5%! It's always good to hear from you.

David: Some say 'Anna Karenina' is the greatest novel ever written although I have never read it. I understand it's full of Vronskys and Oblonskys (or is it Oblomovs?). Perhaps you could blog a review when you finish it. I love Chekov's short stories which you may embrace during your Russian literary fling! Thanks for stopping by.

Joanne Fox said...

What an amazing story. Lucky you to have such a famous relative.

Bob said...

I have seen the Pasternak gravestone at Wolvercote Cemetry, Oxford.
In case you didn't know here is a relevant link

Tom Eagerley said...

If they do remake Dr Zhivago I would probably get the Omar Sharrif or Tom Courtney part. Handsome leading man is how I see myself. I could probably get a part for Bazza. Is there a pretentious git character in the story?
Ha ha, Bazza - only joking!

Tom Eagerley said...

By the way, Bazza; did I tell that after working on a novel for four years, it's finished at last?
Yes and I'm going to start reading another one next week! Boom,boom!

Suzanne Jones said...

What a wonderful story.

Bob said...

That link didn't seem to work. So go to findagrave -then click famous people -then write Pasternak in the search box.
You will find a picture of the grave of the Pasternak family.

Birth: Apr. 4, 1862
Odes'ka Oblast, Ukraine
Death: May 31, 1945
Oxfordshire, England

Russian artist, friend and portraitist of Lev Tolstoy, Alfred Einstein and others. Today he is better known as the father of the Russian Nobel-prize winning writer, Boris Pasternak. Leonid studied medicine at Moscow University. He started training as an artist, but had to take lessons privately as he was unable to gain a place at the Arts School. After graduation from medical school, he met Rosa Kauffmann, the pianist, who later became his wife. After the Russian revolution of 1917, the family moved to Germany where they lived until 1938. At the end of the 30's, Pasternak was preparing to return to Russia but his wife's death changed his plans. Instead he moved to Oxford, England, where he fell ill and died in 1945, aged 83.

Family links:
Rosalia Pasternak (1867 - 1939)

Wolvercote Cemetery
Oxfordshire, England

bazza said...

Joanne: Welcome, thanks for visiting. I don't blog too much personal stuff, as you may have noticed, because I think it may be boring but I thought this was interesting enough.

Tom: You slay me! Omar Eagerley; sounds good to me.

Suzanne: Hi. I visited you blog earlier via Gary (klahanie). Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Bob: The link worked for me (by cut and paste). I had no idea they were buried in Oxford. I do know that Daily Mail journalist Anna Pasternak is related and, of course, Boris's parents would be my grandfather's Aunt & Uncle.

Bob said...

The Wolvercote Cemetry has quite a lot of famous graves e.g. Tolkien and Isiah Berlin.

It's a few yards from the ring road at the north of Oxford.

Sir Tom Eagerley said...

Bazza & Bob: Get a room!

Ursel said...

Great story! Must be fun to discover such relation. Personal history at it's best.

bazza said...

Ursel: Thanks, who knows how many others one might find if researching the family tree?