Boris Leonidovich Pasternak (1890–1960) is undoubtedly one of the major Russian poets and writers of the twentieth century. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death, an edition of his correspondence with his family has been published in English. There are two editions in Russian that contain the letters exchanged between the poet, his parents and his sisters. The collection under review draws on the material from the more complete Moscow edition (edited by Pasternak’s son Evgeni and Evgeni’s wife, Elena), though it restricts itself to the period from 1921 when Boris’s father (the painter Leonid Pasternak) and the rest of his family emigrated to Berlin, to the death of Boris on 30 May 1960 in Peredelkino, Russia.
The forty-year span covered by this correspondence is full of dramatic events in Europe, Soviet Russia and the Pasternak family’s private life. During this time official cultural policy in the Soviet Union changed from promoting Proletkult to complete Stalinist centralisation, which lasted throughout the Second World War, with