When I read your piece in Partisan Review [Winter 1958] on Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago I was struck by your enthusiasm for the novel (I had not yet read it), and puzzled by the fact that your very great fervor—I think you used the word “reverence”—did not communicate itself to me. Rather I wondered, after reading your article, “But why is Nick so enthusiastic?” And it occurred to me then that your enthusiasm for the book must be in excess of your admiration for it.
Since then I have read Doctor Zhivago and, as it happens, I, too, am enthusiastic about it. But let me make this quite clear; I do not greatly admire the novel. I like it, I was touched by it, I would like others to read it. Certainly it is one of the most interesting novels that has appeared in many years. But it is as certainly not a great book; I do not find it great either as a work of art or as a document. So I find myself in the same position that you must have been in when you wrote your article on Pasternak. My liking for this book is a personal fact without significance for literary judgment; it is an accident of my own intellectual history; there is no reason why it should influen...
For just $19.95 a year, get access to new issues and decades' worth of archives on our site.
Print + Online
For $35 a year, get new issues delivered to your door and access to our full online archives.