Doctor Zhivago

Narrated by: John Lee
Length: 23 hrs and 18 mins
4 out of 5 stars (502 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of its original publication, here is a new translation of the classic story of the life and loves of a poet/physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution.

Taking his family from Moscow to what he hopes will be shelter in the Ural Mountains, Zhivago finds himself instead embroiled in the battle between the Whites and the Reds. Set against this backdrop of cruelty and strife is Zhivago’s love for the tender and beautiful Lara: pursued, found, and lost again, Lara is the very embodiment of the pain and chaos of those cataclysmic times.

©1957 Boris Pasternak (P)2011 Random House

Critic Reviews

"This new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky is for the first time based on the authentic original text, reflects the present, deeper level of understanding of the great masterpiece of 20th century Russian literature and conveys its whole artistic richness with all its complexities and subtleties that had escaped the attention of the earlier translators and readers." (Lazar Fleishman, Professor of Russian Literature, Stanford University)
"Without a doubt, their version will become the standard translation of the novel for years to come." (Barry Scherr, Mandel Family Professor of Russian, Dartmouth College)

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What listeners say about Doctor Zhivago

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderfully enjoyable read

My first encounter with the novel was the 1957 Italian translation from the Russian, which I loved. When the 1958 English version came out I had a more difficult time with it, comparing it rather unfavorably with the Italian version. I am happy to say that this audiobook of the new English translation, read so beautifully, is remarkably similar to the Italian version.
It's flowing descriptions of the era, sometimes shocking, rich use of language and sentimentality of the main characters are touching. It is a love story and a history of Russia at the beginning of the last century. For my taste it is more meaningful than War and Peace, maybe because it is based on more recent events. For those who have read the 1958 English translation I suggest this entirely new version will be very rewarding.

32 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

THE RUSSIAN novel and history lesson for the world

This recounting of all that was Russia should be mandatory reading throughout the world. At all levels it challenges the spirit and makes us questions all that we are,
.This new translation touches the fiber of humanity.

13 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Russian Philosophical Feast

Any additional comments?

This book is so much more than an epic historical love story, but I would never have picked up on it earlier in life. It is a Russian philosophical feast. The women in Zhivago's life clearly portray his feelings about Russia and the social changes that it went through. I'm amazed at how Pasternak was able to do this. The audio version was excellent because it provided a short intro that helped me with the magical /folktale part of the book, and then it had an afterword and a short history on Pasternak's life. Just be prepared for its typical Russian length and repetitiveness on theme / thought. Oh, and the love story is magnificent, too.

39 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Read it for history, not for story about Zhivago..

... and Lara.

This felt more like a history book than a novel. Of course, a well-written and lyrical history book, but still. Like many, I read this because I loved the movie. As others have mentioned, this is nothing like the movie. The primary goal of this novel, it seems, is to tell what life was like during the Revolution. The secondary, or maybe even tertiary, goal of this is to tell the stories of Zhivago and others. Found this very hard to follow. I have to put this book in the "glad I listened to it, but sure didn't enjoy it" category. I've listened to and enjoyed War and Peace, Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, and Crime and Punishment, so I'm not at all adverse to long, philosophical Russian novels.

23 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Love and poetry sacrificed to ideals and folly

This sweeping romantic epic, set in Russia mostly during and after the 1917 Revolution, involves Yurii Zhivago, a young physician and poet, and Lara Antipova, his great love through the tumult and upheaval of the Revolution and most of the ensuing civil war between Red and White partisans.

This audiobook is made all the more profound and affecting if the listener is aware of the tragic harm done to Boris Pasternak for writing this novel, which was first published in Italy in 1957, but not in the Soviet Union until 1987. The communist regime forced Pasternak, an esteemed poet in Russia for years before writing this novel, to decline the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature, by jailing his long-time companion Olga Ivinskaya, his inspiration for Lara. Pasternak died two years later at the age of 70.

Zhivago, an army doctor wounded during WWI, is nursed to health by Lara. Upon return home, Doctor Zhivago returns to find his post-revolution Moscow ruined by disease and riots. He flees with wife Tonia and their child to settle in a small village in the Urals, where he soon after meets Lara and their mutual passions are inflamed.

Zhivago is soon taken by a group of Red partisans and forced to serve as their doctor during guerrilla warfare in Siberia against White partisans. Upon return, he finds that his family has returned to Moscow. He lives with Lara, his soul mate, in an abandoned farmhouse for a period of brief bliss. That is, until all is upset by the tempestuous events surrounding the return of Lara's husband Pasha, who she has not seen in years and is now infamously known as Strelnikov, meaning Shooter, a detested and dreaded commander for the Reds.

Twenty-five of Zhivago's poems make up the novel's final chapter. Pasternak meant the poetry to be an essential component since Zhivago sees his poems, not as a pastime or vocation, but a vital part of his identity, supplying spiritual succor when none seemed possible in the violent turmoil and restlessness of the years during and after the October Revolution. He wrote nearly all of these for Lara. As Robert Penn Warren once said, 'what is a poem but a hazardous attempt at self-understanding: it is the deepest part of autobiography.'

A brilliant tale of love and poetry sacrificed at the expense of ideals of a revolution and the folly of communism.

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8 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

This prize-winning work receives a good treatment

To think of this book as another in the line of big Russian books set during wartime is probably to miss a lot of what the author was after. While the centerpiece of the story is the First World War and the Russian Revolution, which cannot be separated from the main themes of the novel, the reaction of the main character to what is happening around him and inside of him is not primarily about war, or politics, or even love. We spend most of the book looking through Yuri Zhivago's eyes, but we only rarely get the sense that he is able to put together a coherent picture of what is happening and why, or what it all might mean. Things happen according to their own logic, not because they make practical sense in a realistic manner, but to express some deep intention of the author's. It feels authentically tragic in the end, both the hardships caused by war and the fulfillment brought by love only to be lost. The way that other people move in and out of the main character's life feels both stylized but also natural, at least it does to a person like me who has lived long enough to know that what happens over the course of a life doesn't always being tidy or orderly. At least as important as the events which happen are the intensely charged lyrical passages, frequently at the head of a section, where we see the natural world and fragments of the world constructed by society with all the intensity a poet can bring to the task. The Soviet authorities opposing Pasternak wanted a story which gave a lesson in line with the doctrine of the time, but instead what we encounter is a tale where the various characters grasp at anything they have to bring meaning to what they see, whether it is Christianity, mystical paganism, western empirical thought, or a kind of tribal trust in one's own family and small community. It rings true, and it was not what the authorities wanted.

The Lara character is shown for maybe half of the book, not all the way through as I had somehow expected. She is a woman who brings a tumultuous train of story elements along with her, and Zhivago is drawn to her as though by a law of nature. And in the end, he finds that he has to separate from her by an equally strict set of rules, even though they both love one another deeply. The sections where they are together are not sexy as much as they depict their bond as one with a certain rightness, even if illicit, dangerous, and ultimately doomed. After they are apart, it is as though Zhivago knows already that they will never meet again in life, so he cannot even strive to bring about a reunion. He's a different person, with a damaged circulatory system in the same way his emotional center itself is damaged. In the epilogue we see how life continues without him, during another war which is only lightly alluded to.

The audio narration was good, not too flashy or overusing different voices for all of the characters, only a slight indication of gender or social class, and in one class a comical foreign accent. He lets the horrific scenes and the rapturous lyric scenes speak for themselves.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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WoW!

Would you consider the audio edition of Doctor Zhivago to be better than the print version?

It was outstanding!

What did you like best about this story?

I was warned that it would be difficult to follow the characters, but it was not difficult at all.

What about John Lee’s performance did you like?

Everything!

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

the story of life.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Much,Much Better Than The Movie

What made the experience of listening to Doctor Zhivago the most enjoyable?

Just knowing that this book was written by Boris Pasternak and that it is telling the story of the Russian Revolution is awesome. I'm not an intellectual but I found myself looking up names and events on the Internet to find out more. It seemed that the translation was very well done. It was clear that this book is much more than a love story between two people but is the story of Russia and how the war, revolution, and civil war transformed the country.

What other book might you compare Doctor Zhivago to and why?

This book is an epic story about 20th Century upheaval. Winds of War and the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett follow in the same vein but I can't think of any book that compares to Dr. Zhivago. I may listen to War & Peace next. Maybe it will compare. Russian authors are just different than most of the American and English authors.

What about John Lee’s performance did you like?

John Lee is superb. I've listened to some of his other narrations and he is exceptional in every one of his performances.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I didn't cry but when Dr. Z gets off the tram and collapses, it made me sad. He was so young and yet he was so sad and depressed, he would probably never have recovered.

Any additional comments?

Never think that a movie tells the whole story.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

decent

The translator and narrators did a fine job. However, the novel had zero humor and was very preachy. I listened to this book because Pasternak won the Nobel Prize and the David Lean movie is a classic. But don't expect Tolstoy or Dostoevsky.

10 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Endured it, but I didn't get a prize.

Would you try another book from the authors and/or John Lee?

John Lee sure. He saved it. But this book was a chore.

What could the authors have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I read this book because it is a classic. I suspect it reflects the people and the times well. But oh, my. Take me back to Follett's Century Trilogy.

What about John Lee’s performance did you like?

Voices distinguishable and not annoying, even though the characters were.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Relief it was over and sorry it cost 2 credits.

8 people found this helpful