Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Journey to Varykino


Pasternak lavishes a long chapter on the train ride to Varykino with Yury, Tonya and Gromeko seeking the isolation of the old Krueger estate to ride out the rest of the civil war.  Along the way, Pasternak offers grim notes of the strife that has ripped Russia in half.  At one small burned out station, everyone has to get off and help shovel the snow off the railway line as the dreaded Strelnikov had shelled the town recently, crushing one of the many rebellious provinces in Russia.  But, Yury seems to relish the bleakness.  It fits into the nihilism he has developed.

Yury Zhivago is appearing more and more like a Turgenev character, a throwback to 19th century "revolutionaries" rather than a Bolshevik or a Menshevik.  While his wife and father-in-law see the estate as their only chance for survival, Yury seems to view it as a means to rediscover the Russian heartland.

He and Alexander Alexandrovich discuss the fate of Russia while Tonya looks after little Sasha.  Aboard are a gang of conscripted labor which Pasternak provides a few character sketches, including that of a boy who finds himself pleading with the foreman for his release as he committed no crime other than to be held as collateral for the return of his uncle.  These scenes seem to show the randomness of events and how everyone is subject to the ever-changing laws of the state, which can be seen pinned up to walls of railway stations.

Eventually the train rolls up to Yuryatin, apparently modeled after the former industrial town of Perm, which was an area much under contention during the civil war.  He meets a man who is a jack of all trades, but primarily a lawyer, who fills him in on the state of things and warns him that he is in for a tougher time at Varykino than he imagines.  Yury also comes across Strelnikov, which is an alias Pasha Antipov has taken for himself after escaping the clutches of the Germans.

Strelnikov, which means "the shooter," is a ruthless general who now commands an entire theater and has the rebels under control for the most part.  He makes no mention of his wife or daughter, but menacingly notes that he has heard of Zhivago before.  The mini-series made this scene more tense than the novel, or I was just prepared for it.  Zhivago is eventually returned to his family, where they prepare for the final leg to Varykino.

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