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Moscow Has Ears Everywhere: New Investigations on Pasternak and Ivinskaya

Moscow Has Ears Everywhere: New Investigations on Pasternak and Ivinskaya

by Paolo Mancosu


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The conflict between Soviet Communists and Boris Pasternak over the publication of Doctor Zhivago did not end when he won the Nobel Prize, or even when the author died. Paolo Mancosu tells how Pasternak’s expulsion from the Soviet Writers’ Union left him in financial difficulty. After Pasternak’s death, Olga Ivinskaya, his companion, literary assistant, and the inspiration for Zhivago’s Lara, also received some of the Zhivago royalties. After the KGB intercepted Pasternak’s will on her behalf, the Soviets arrested and sentenced her to eight years of labor camp. The ensuing international outrage inspired a secret campaign in the West to win her freedom. Mancosu’s new book provides extraordinary detail on these events, in a thrilling account that involves KGB interceptions, fabricated documents, smugglers, and much more. Included are letters of Pasternak and Ivinskaya from the Hoover Institution Library and Archives.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780817922443
Publisher: Hoover Institution Press
Publication date: 03/01/2019
Edition description: None
Pages: 396
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Paolo Mancosu is the Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California-Berkeley.

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"Just Be Careful, Remember How Frightening Everything Is for Us" The Problem of the Zhivago Royalties

1.1. D'Angelo receives the typescript of Doctor Zhivago

The facts concerning how Pasternak handed a typescript of Doctor Zhivago to Sergio d'Angelo for possible publication in Italy with Feltrinelli are now well known, so I will limit myself to a bare summary of the facts. In March 1956, Sergio d'Angelo, a member of the Italian Communist Party, left his job as director of the Communist Bookstore Rinascita in Rome and settled in Moscow as a member of the Italian section of Radio Moscow. In Italy, he had already been acquainted with Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, who in 1955 had founded the publishing house Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore. Indeed, d'Angelo had already translated and written prefaces for some of Feltrinelli's books. In an unpublished letter to Valerio Riva, d'Angelo pointed out that Feltrinelli had approached him before leaving for Moscow with the proposal of acting as literary scout for works that might be of interest to the publishing house. D'Angelo accepted, and in late April he read a news bulletin at Radio Moscow stating that Pasternak had completed a novel titled Doctor Zhivago whose publication was imminent. He informed the publishing house in Milan and was asked to contact Pasternak with a view to obtaining the proofs or a manuscript of the novel. On May 20, 1956, d'Angelo met Pasternak, who gave him the typescript of Doctor Zhivago. After one week, d'Angelo flew to Berlin, where he delivered the typescript to Feltrinelli. During this time d'Angelo became friends with Pasternak. His friendship with Olga Ivinskaya began in May 1957. For all of 1957, he was the privileged link between Pasternak and Feltrinelli. There are two letters from Pasternak to d'Angelo written in 1957 (see documents 1 and 2 in the appendix), and both contain, among other things, information that Pasternak wished d'Angelo to convey to Feltrinelli the pressure put on Pasternak by the Soviets to halt the publication of Doctor Zhivago.

In a letter dated November 25, 1957, ten days after the publication of the Italian Zhivago, Pasternak wrote to Feltrinelli:

I have a big request for you. Nothing of the sort could have been accomplished without Sergio d'Angelo's assistance; he acted in this as our indefatigable guardian angel. Although help of this higher sort cannot be measured in pecuniary terms, please do me the favor of compensating him for his innumerable losses, for the time and energy he spent, in the following way. Set aside from the sum that you designate for me in the future a considerable portion for d'Angelo's benefit, one that you and he will find suitable, and double it. (For the full letter, see Mancosu 2013, 258; original in French)

This letter was written one month before d'Angelo's last visit to Olga and Pasternak before returning to Italy. We have a receipt dated December 24, 1957, in which Olga states she has received from d'Angelo the sum of 12,800 rubles (see document 3). D'Angelo had in fact suggested to Feltrinelli (through the Italian translator Pietro Zveteremich) that he could give some rubles to Pasternak and be paid back in liras upon his return to Italy at the end of 1957.

This was the first of what became a long list of financial transactions meant to provide Pasternak with some of the royalties for Doctor Zhivago. Indeed, it is fair to say that these financial transactions constitute one of the most important topics of conversation in the correspondence from 1959 and 1960. To understand how these issues emerged, it is worth rereading some lines that Pasternak wrote to Feltrinelli on November 2, 1957, only two weeks before the Italian publication of Doctor Zhivago:

Do not worry on my account about the money. Let us postpone the financial issues (there are none for me) to the times when there will be a more sensitive and humane order, when again in the twentieth century it will be possible to correspond and to travel. My trust in you is boundless. I am certain that you will be able to look after what you have earmarked for me. Only if trouble were to strike, if they deprived me of my salary and my means of subsistence were cut off (the case would be extraordinary and there is nothing to suggest that) —, well then, in that case I will try to find a way to inform you and to take advantage of your offers through Sergio who, in accordance with his name, is a true angel and unsparingly devotes his time and his person to this annoying business. (Mancosu 2013, 251; original in French)

And trouble did eventually strike, which led to Pasternak's need to take advantage of the offer of financial help. D'Angelo left the Soviet Union at the very end of 1957, after making sure that communication between Pasternak and Feltrinelli (and himself) would not be interrupted. The new link became d'Angelo's friend Giuseppe Garritano.

1.2. D'Angelo leaves the Soviet Union, and the Garritanos enter the picture

Giuseppe ("Pino") Garritano arrived in Moscow as a correspondent of the Communist daily l'Unità in the middle of 1957. He was also a correspondent for Vie Nuove. He was accompanied by his wife, Mirella, employed at Radio Moscow, who would also play an important role in the story. D'Angelo and Garritano had known each other at the publishing house Rinascita and were thus in close contact during the period during which they overlapped in Moscow. D'Angelo describes Garritano as "extremely cultured" and "stubborn." Irina Emelianova (Olga Ivinskaya's daughter) describes him in her memoirs as shy and frightened on account of the various (illicit) tasks he had to fulfill on behalf of d'Angelo and Pasternak, which included carrying letters and other items between Italy and the Soviet Union (Emelianova 2002, 91–92). For instance, Irina Emelianova vividly recalls a conversation she had with Garritano on October 24, 1958 (the day after the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Pasternak), in the public garden near the Belarusian station. Garritano, who "looked worried," informed Irina that Boris had been awarded the Nobel Prize. On that occasion, he gave her a Torpedo typewriter that had been sent from Italy for Olga and Pasternak. This typewriter had been requested in a letter from Olga datable to the summer of 1958 (document 4). The same letter refers to Giuseppe Garritano's role in enabling the transfer of money. And as we shall see, the Garritanos delivered quite a bit of money to Pasternak. Indeed, in an interview given for a documentary by Valeria Paniccia, Giuseppe Garritano said that Pasternak gave him some receipts that he handed over directly to Feltrinelli. Some of these receipts have been published in Mancosu 2013. The Garritanos would be involved in the spring of 1960 in an event that was to have important consequences and to which I will return below.

1.3. After the Italian publication

We have already seen Pasternak's relaxed attitude toward money. He was aware of the complications of trying to transfer royalties officially from abroad and did not seem to need the money. This situation continued in 1958. An interesting letter from Gerd Ruge to Kurt Wolff sheds light on the official reaction (or lack thereof) to the Italian publication of Zhivago and Pasternak's financial situation. Gerd Ruge (b. 1928) was a foreign correspondent in Moscow for the German television broadcaster NRD from 1956 until 1959. He would become involved with Pasternak both as the author of a book published in 1958 (Ruge 1958) and by helping Pasternak with some financial transactions. On August 15, 1958, he wrote to Wolff:

The publication of his novel abroad has not, until today, given rise to any official Soviet reaction. The fact that the State Publishing House for Literature does not provide him with any new translation work and does not pay what is owed to him for previous publications is more a sign of the uncertainty of the people in charge at the Publishing House than the effect of an official decision at the highest levels. However, Pasternak at the moment does not seem to find himself in financial need. He obviously cannot receive any money from abroad, Feltrinelli has been unable in any case to send anything officially, and Pasternak, understandably, does not want to receive anything through means that are not completely legal. He does not seem at the moment to be pressed by financial worries. (FoGF, Fascicolo "Pantheon books (Boris Pasternak)" (1957–1959), 1.2.1–b.18, fasc. 190; original in German)

From this letter it emerges that two months before the Nobel Prize, Pasternak's financial situation was still relatively unproblematic. It is true that he (and Ivinskaya) were receiving some financial help from the West, as confirmed in a letter from Olga Ivinskaya to Sergio d'Angelo (see document 4). The letter is datable to around the end of June or beginning of July 1958. Ivinskaya wrote: "Now regarding the settlements — after you, there have been 4! But I see that settling there, in Moscow, is hard for your friend (G.). Please think about how to make this simpler and increase the amount of a single dose. That would be better for B.L., and you will likely be able to come up with a way to get it done and then actually deliver on it." We still have some of the receipts for payments in 1958, with sums ranging from 1,000 rubles to 10,000 rubles. But this state of things was to be radically altered by the Nobel Prize.

1.4. The Nobel Prize, the persecution, and the first financial problems

Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize on October 23, 1958. Forced to renounce the prize, he was vilified in the Soviet press, expelled from the Soviet Writers' Union, and threatened with exile. Pasternak wrote a letter to Khrushchev begging not to be exiled, but the measure that had the most tangible financial consequence was his expulsion from the Soviet Writers' Union. This was tantamount to eliminating Pasternak's livelihood, exactly the scenario that Pasternak had hypothetically described to Feltrinelli in November 1957.

Of course, the Soviets were working hard to convey the opposite impression. There is a letter to Feltrinelli from Georg Svensson at Bonniers (publisher of Doctor Zhivago in Sweden) dated October 31, 1958. It says:

Dear Mr. Feltrinelli,

We just got your cable in which you want us to recommend the Swedish Academy not to accept Pasternak's refusal to receive the Nobel prize. The Academy met yesterday and then sent Pasternak the following cable: "L'Academie suedoise vient de recevoir votre refus en regrettant profondement. Avec sympathie et respect." This will mean that no prize money will be paid to Pasternak but will go back to the foundation. Officially, however, Pasternak will be regarded as 1958 Nobel prize winner of literature and will always in the records of the Swedish Academy be mentioned as such. Should the situation change so that Pasternak one day would accept his prize, he will always get the medal and the diploma, but the prize money only if he changes his mind before the 10th of December, which is the prize giving day.

Another thing that might interest you to know is in today's paper. The chairman of the Swedish Authors' Association, Mr. Stellan Arvidson, yesterday called upon the Russian chargé d'affaires in Stockholm, Mr. Voinov, to hand over a letter from the association to the Sovjet Authors' Association. Voinov then assured Arvidson that no harm will come to Pasternak, that he might stay in his house, that he will not be deprived of any civil rights nor any economic. He will be able to go on writing and translating as before and may also receive fees and royalties including the foreign editions of Doktor Zjivago, all according to Voinov. But I am personally a bit doubtful about the last point. (Kurt and Helen Wolff Papers at Yale, YCGL MSS 16, Box 46, folder 1479)

As we shall see, Svensson could have been even more skeptical than he was. That Pasternak feared immediate consequences for his livelihood is confirmed by his reaction to a letter from Hélène Peltier offering material assistance. Replying to the offer in a letter to Proyart, Pasternak wrote on November 28, 1958: "I received Hélène's letters, her offer of material assistance (it is not at all ridiculous, she has guessed a lot)" (Boris Pasternak 1994, 129; for Peltier's letter see Elena and Evgeni? Pasternak 1997). Pasternak was no longer paid the royalties owed to him in the Soviet Union and was no longer given translation work. Without an income, he quickly found himself in need of money.

But reports about a worsening of Pasternak's financial situation antedate the Nobel Prize crisis. For instance, Nicolas Nabokov wrote to Feltrinelli on July 25, 1958, in worried terms about Pasternak's income:

On the other hand, I received some news concerning Pasternak that is worrying me somewhat. I was told that upon his return to Peredelkino after his release from the hospital, in a healthier state, he found a very worrisome financial situation. They have cut by half the royalties he was receiving for the translations he did for the theater of the USSR and for which he receives no new requests for translations. Moreover, Pasternak receives not even a single cent of the royalties for the sale of the Italian edition of his book. In other words, he receives not even a single cent from abroad. I wonder whether you could do something about this matter. I am sure that if you were able to send him his European royalties one way or another, this would help his financial situation. (Nicolas Nabokov to G. Feltrinelli, July 25, 1958, original in French; Nicolas Nabokov Papers, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin)

But despite these letters, in general very little was known in the West about Pasternak's financial situation in 1958.

The best source for Pasternak's situation in early 1959 is a letter from Ruge to Manya Harari, datable to mid-March 1959:

Dear Mrs. Harari,

first I have to apologize for not writing earlier. But I was very busy, and there was very little concerning your original question which I could have told you. As David Floyd was returning to London at about that time, I felt sure that he would inform you on his conversation with B.P [Pasternak]. There are some ideas, however, which I would like to think about.

B.P. feels that no money from abroad should be transferred to him, as this might raise a new campaign, — being paid by the West, etc. He would like to be able to earn his living in his own country by translating. Since ca. January 1958 B.P. has received no royalties for his work. Money due to him for earlier translations has not been paid. New translations, which had been ordered (like the Slowarzkij [S?owacki] drama [Maria Stuart]) have been accepted, but the publishing house — in this case Goslitizdat — has not paid the usual 60% of the agreed fee, nor is it expected that the Polish play will be published. The new publication of the collected dramas of Shakespeare — prepared by Iskusstvo — will most probably not contain the Pasternak-Translations. B.P. has again not received the 60% of the basic payment due to him, which are normally paid on delivery of the translations, with the other 40% paid on publication. From what I hear, the publishing house has prepared all the necessary bookkeeping actions, but decided to send the whole question up to the cultural section of the Central Committee of the CPSU, where it now rests. NO decision has been coming on this issue, — and probably the question of whether to pay B.P. the money due to him rests there altogether. B.P. feels that he still has enough money to last him some time and that he should not try to get money from abroad as long as the situation is not really unbearable.

I have not seen him after the unhappy incident created by Tony Brown [This indicates that the report concerns conversations at the end of January/beginning of February 1959. — PM]. B.P. left for Tiflis, as you probably know. He telephoned me before he left, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he went entirely of his own free will. He was not sent away from the vicinity of Moscow. As a matter of fact, he had been planning to go to the Caucasus for some time, his decision may only have come earlier than originally planned because B.P. was afraid of the great number of journalists coming with Macmillan. B.P. feels very well, he likes Tiflis very much, as he always did, and the neuralgic pain, of which he complained during the last six months, has ceased altogether. I do not know whether he is back in Peredyelkino by now, but he had prolonged his sojourn in Tiflis already when I left Moscow in the first days of March.


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xvii

Chronology of Events xxi

Abbreviations and archives xxiii

1 "Just Be Careful, Remember How Frightening Everything Is for Us": The Problem of the Zhivago Royalties 1

2 "Moscow Has Ears Everywhere!": From Pasternak's Death to the Arrests of Olga Ivinskaya and Irina Emelianova 37

3 "We Need to Help the Russians Save Face": The Ivinskaya Case in the West 75

Documentary Appendix 153

Bibliography 247

About the Author 251

Index 253

Illustrations follow page 70

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