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Boris Pasternak (1890–1960)

To Be Famous

Creation calls for self-surrender,
Not loud noise and cheap success.
Life must be lived without false face,
Lived so that in the final count
We draw unto ourselves love from space.

So plunge yourself into obscurity
And conceal there your tracks.
But be alive, alive your full share,
Alive until the end.

Boris Pasternak was born Jewish but raised in the Russian Orthodox faith by his nanny. Originally Pasternak supported the Russian revolution, but later lost his faith in the totalitarian apparatus that emerged (he once remarked he was an atheist who lost faith in atheism). He later would symbolize the radical, and very brave, dissident's defense of human conscience. His poem above, for example, illustrates the dissident's role to protest, but quietly, anonymously, and carefully so (a position that infuriated Solzhenitsyn who shouted from the rooftops). Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958 for his one and only novel, Doctor Zhivago, but the Soviet government considered the book propaganda and prohibited him from accepting the prize. Pasternak died about a year later.

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