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  • Published: 19 June 2014
  • ISBN: 9781448155651
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

The Zhivago Affair

The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle over a Forbidden Book

The story of a forbidden book that became a symbol of freedom and rebellion in the battle between East and West.

The story of a forbidden book that became a symbol of freedom and rebellion in the battle between East and West.

1956. Boris Pasternak presses a manuscript into the hands of an Italian publishing scout with these words: 'This is Doctor Zhivago. May it make its way around the world.' Pasternak knew his novel would never be published in the Soviet Union as the authorities regarded it as seditious, so, instead, he allowed it to be published in translation all over the world - a highly dangerous act.

1958. The life of this extraordinary book enters the realms of the spy novel. The CIA, recognising that the Cold War was primarily an ideological battle, published Doctor Zhivago in Russian and smuggled it into the Soviet Union. It was immediately snapped up on the black market. Pasternak was later forced to renounce the Nobel Prize in Literature, igniting worldwide political scandal.

With first access to previously classified CIA files, The Zhivago Affair gives an irresistible portrait of Pasternak, and takes us deep into the Cold War, back to a time when literature had the power to shake the world.

A Spectator and Sunday Times Book of the Year

  • Published: 19 June 2014
  • ISBN: 9781448155651
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

About the authors

Peter Finn

PETER FINN is national security editor for The Washington Post and previously served as the Post’s bureau chief in Moscow.

Petra Couvee

PETRA COUVÉE is a writer and translator, and teaches at Saint Petersburg State University.

Praise for The Zhivago Affair

A galloping page-turner and a stark picture of a nation ruled by terror and unreason, which reads like a sinister rewrite of Alice in Wonderland

John Carey, Sunday Times

Packed with fascinating detail … vibrant authenticity and calm analysis

Claire Morrall, Independent on Sunday

Fascinating… [Finn and Couvée] manage to shed new light on both the period and the characters involved

Virginia Rounding, Financial Times

A compelling, seductively written tale of Cold War censorship and paranoia

Kate Williams, Independent

Excellent, superbly researched, and as exciting in its way as any Cold War thriller. Pasternak himself emerges clearly and strongly in all his complexity. This was the most important literary controversy of the post-war world, and Finn and Couvée have presented it with immense care and colour. The aftermath of the affair still has resonance even now

John Simpson

An extraordinary, gripping tale of art and espionage, The Zhivago Affair embodies the belief shared by its flamboyant cast of geniuses, barbarians, lovers and eccentrics: books matter

AD Miller, author of SNOWDROPS

[The Zhivago Affair] really is a thriller, a page turner

Vin Arthey, Scotland on Sunday

A fine contribution to our knowledge of what became known as the Pasternak affair

Robert Service, Times Literary Supplement

A you-couldn’t-make-it-up account of the CIA’s campaign to smuggle copies of Pasternak’s banned novel into the USSR

Mark Mason, Spectator

Beautifully crafted and scrupulously researched… The Zhivago Affair is a prime example of hard work and fidelity to a good story

Washington Post Sunday

As gripping as any spy thriller

Sunday Times

Fascinating...With a delightful eye for detail

Catherine Merridale, The Times

Finn and Couvée deal objectively with the characters involved and tell the story with exceptional vivacity

Literary Review

A thrilling literary espionage yarn...sheds new light on the Cold War struggle for the hearts and minds of millions of people

Michael Dobbs

A fascinating tale that sheds new light on the literary front of the Cold War

Stephen Coulson, Lady

High dudgeon, high stakes, high art

Robert Bound, Monocle

A wonderful book

Angus Roxburgh, The Herald

A fast-paced political thriller about a book that terrified a nation

Kirkus Reviews

Brisk and thrilling...expertly told...a triumphant reminder that truth is sometimes gloriously stranger than fiction

Publishers Weekly

Groundbreaking reporting and character-rich storytelling... Passionately written...almost makes one nostalgic for a time when novels were so important that even the CIA cared about them

Ken Kalfus

A sparkling and fascinating account

David E. Hoffman

Well-paced narrative...of great relevance today, when such conflicts seem (but only seem) to have disappeared.

Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Immensely compelling

Fred Hiatt, The Pat Banker

Meticulously researched

Duncan White, Irish Independent

The true strength of this meticulously researched book is the placing of the revelations into the context of a compelling human drama

Weekly Telegraph


Andrew Lynch, Sunday Business Post

[An] outstanding treasure of literature

Market Oracle

Impeccably researched, and moving, this book breaks new ground

5 stars, Sunday Telegraph

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