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Literature: Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago is a 1957 novel which got its author (Boris Pasternak) a Nobel Prize. That he was forced to reject by the Soviet government. It is one of the most famous works of Russian Literature, worth mentioning in the same breath as War and Peace, Crime and Punishment and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

A tale of lost love that takes in World War One, the Russian Revolutions and the Russian Civil War, it has been adapted several times, including in Russia itself.

The most famous film adaptation is Doctor Zhivago (1965), David Lean's followup to Lawrence of Arabia starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie, best known for its epic scope, and for the world famous "Lara's Theme". The film was praised for its visual style that was a calling card for its director David Lean. It also features Rod Steiger as Komarovsky.

It was adapted again into a 2002 TV miniseries, which added an extra hour to the movie's run time, making it roughly four hours total. They decided to use the time to add in more characters, move some people around in terms of plot, make it grittier and add in some longer sex scenes which would not have been cool for a 1965 movie. Starring Keira Knightley and Hans Matheson, it also featured Sam Neil as Komarovsky, making him an even bigger Magnificent Bastard than any other onscreen adaptation yet.

Doctor Zhivago has also been adapted into a stage musical, premiering in Sydney, Australia in 2011.

The Novel itself contains examples of:

  • Beard of Sorrow: After Zhivago is conscripted into the Red Army, he starts wearing one of these.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Yevgraf uses his connections in the party to protect Zhivago from time to time and find him shelter and food when he needs it.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Zhivago and Tonya. In all fairness, he was adopted.
  • Chick Magnet: Zhivago. He manages to have children with three different women.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Pasha. It doesn't stick, though.
  • Distant Finale: The ending happens years after Zhivago and Lara die.
  • Doorstopper
  • Gender Bender: The sex and name of Yuri and Lara's child changes with each adaptation.
  • Glorious Mother Russia
  • Lamarck Was Right: In the movie, at least, Yuri's mother is said to be an artist of the balalaika. Yuri and Lara's child inherited this.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Yevgraf.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Zhivago: the Russian root zhiv is similar to 'life'
    • Larissa: a Greek name suggesting 'bright, cheerful'
    • Komarovsky: komar is the Russian for 'mosquito'
    • Strelnikov: strelok means 'the shooter'
  • Most Writers Are Writers: In addition to being a doctor, Yuri is a poet.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Zhivago and Tonya.
  • One Degree of Separation: The country is huge and the characters travel all around it, and yet the manage to meet themselves from time to time completely by chance.
  • Patronymics: At least one modern English edition has a guide to patronymics.
  • Red October
  • Romanovs And Revolutions
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Poor, poor Tonya. despite being Yuri's foster-sister (very, very foster...), his best friend, his life-long companion and confidant, not to mention the mother of two of his children, she gets dumped, HARD. Each adaptation plays it off differently as to how much Yuri loved her but really the girl gets dumped because she just isn't Lara.
  • Warrior Poet: Zhivago. Technically he's a doctor, so he isn't a warrior, but once he had to took a gun and shoot during the civil war, so he qualifies too.
  • White and Grey Morality: Most of the characters are treated sympathetically in one way or another, even the ones who come closest to being "villains": Komarovsky has some Pet the Dog moments in spite of all his manipulative seediness, and the two main communist characters, Strelnikov and Liberius, are portrayed as Well Intentioned Extremists swept up in the fervor of the Revolution rather than malicious murderers.
  • World Gone Mad: Zhivago feels he's the Only Sane Man in the world when he sees it crumbling around him.

Half a LifeRussian LiteratureThe Doomed City
The Diary of a Young GirlLiterature of the 1950sThe Door into Summer
Doctor FaustusLit FicDubliners

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