Course overview

During this course, we will begin our discussion with a Russian classic, Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. This 1957 novel was first published in Italy. It was not published in Russia until 1988. We will be thinking about the way Boris Paternak presents the political and societal events of his lifetime. Do these scenes and ideas resonate in only a historical sense? Later on in the course we willmove on to Zennor in Darkness, Helen Dunmore’s 1996 Orange Prize winning novel to think about her portrayal of World War one Cornwall and DH Lawrence, as we continue our discussion about the way fiction translates the past.

Course description

We will be discussing the unabridged version of Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. There are several translations. The three main ones are: Max Hayward and Manya Harari; Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, and the most recent, by Nicolas Pasternak Slater. Any of these will be suitable, as one of the things we will be thinking about is the impact translators have on our reading experience. It is probable that most of us will be more familiar with the 1965 film than the text. We will consider how that connects to our reading experience, too.

This is a big novel, about a big moment, with an appropriately large cast of characters. We will discuss it in chronological sections, tracking events and thinking about how they work.

Helen Dunmore’s Zennor in Darkness should offer an interesting contrast. We will think about the way she translates the past, and look at key features of style, characterisation and content.

Both authors were poets, so we will also consider the ways that might be reflected in their prose.

The tutor will provide a reading schedule, but please read to the end of chapter 2, A Girl from a Different World, for discussion at the first session.

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