Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Farewell to the Old


Seems the first three chapters serve as little more than introduction.  Pasternak chooses to sketch these chapters, culminating in Lara's attempt to strike back at her tormentor Komarovsky at the Sventitsky's Christmas Party.  Again, Yury is there to witness the event and finds himself once again drawn to this mysterious woman who would come to dominate his thoughts and emotions.

Pasternak then thrusts his protagonists into the war.  Yury is consigned to a field hospital in which the ravages of war quickly dispense of his innocence.  He meets with Misha again and a much more cynical world view emerges.  Lara had signed on as a nurse in search of her husband Pasha Antipov, leaving her daughter with a close friend in Moscow.  Yury has also left his family behind, witnessing the birth of his son to Tonya shortly before being sent to the front.  Essentially, here begins the story.

Yury doesn't actually meet Lara until the fifth chapter, Farewell to the Old,  at an estate that has been converted into a hospital, where unrest ferments in the village and a group of secessionists led by a blind prophet, Blazheiko, hide out in the forest.  Pasternak chooses to build his romance slowly.  Lara finds herself drawn to the wounded Yury because of his intelligence and Yury finds himself drawn to Lara for her foreign beauty.

As the war winds down, the two find themselves ever more in contact with each other, with Yury happy to have someone he can freely share his thoughts with.  He confides his relationship in a letter to Tonya, who takes it all the "wrong" way with Yury reaffirming his love for his wife in a subsequent letter.  But, the seed has been planted, and everyone around them sees the love the two have for each other.  However, in the chaos that followed both return to their separate homes.  Lara deep in the heart of the Urals and Yury to Moscow.

You might call this a philosophical tale of love in the tradition of Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, set against the rapidly changing face of Russia.  Pasternak does not delve too deeply into the war.  Instead he focuses on the relationship between Yury and Lara, a democratic love which he feels defies both tradition and the false promise of the revolution.

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