Boris Pasternak’s novel ‘Doctor Zhivago’
The typescript for Boris Pasternak’s novel ‘Doctor Zhivago’ which is being offered at Forum Auctions with a £100,000-150,000 estimate.

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The epic story earned Pasternak the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958, the year after it was first published in Italy in spite of Soviet attempts to obstruct its release.

The semi-autobiographical love story about the eponymous doctor and the tragic nurse Lara, told against the backdrop of revolution and civil war, later became adapted into a famous film starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie.

Market rarity

With Pasternak having great difficulty getting his novel published in his homeland, due to perceived criticism of life under Soviet rule, the two-volume typescript at Forum was one of only six typescripts that left Russia before the novel's publication.

Known as ‘the George Katkov copy’, the typescript dates from c.1956 and still remains in its original brown cloth bindings.

‘Doctor Zhivago’ typescript

The ‘Doctor Zhivago’ typescript comes in two volumes bound in original brown cloth.

This particular copy was instrumental in the first English translation of Doctor Zhivago, as well as the BBC’s first broadcast of the book in Russian.

The auction at Forum represents the first time an original and complete Doctor Zhivago typescript has ever been on the market. Only one of the other five copies is still privately owned, with the others now in the collections of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, the Biblioteka Narodowa in Warsaw, the Feltrinelli Foundation in Milan and the Peltier archive in Sylvanès, France.

All the typescripts have handwritten corrections by Pasternak as the author continued to add or alter passages to Doctor Zhivago throughout 1956-58. The copy at Forum has autograph deletion of passages, insertion of words and typographical corrections in faint pencil and ink on more than 200 of the pages.

The typescript was sent to George Katkov (1903-85), a Russian academic who became senior lecturer in Russian history at St Anthony's College, Oxford, and who had met Pasternak when travelling to Moscow in 1956.

The author requested that Katkov assist in the English publication of Doctor Zhivago and arranged for this typescript to be sent to Katkov, most probably via diplomatic channels, in early 1957.

The work was then carefully translated into English and published by Collins – the first English edition released in September 1958. At around the same Katkov, along with this copy of the text, also played a key role in the BBC radio production of the novel in Russian which was broadcasted into the Soviet Union in 1958.

Two pages that accompany this copy at Forum show the breakdown of the novel into 38 segments for broadcast.

The typescript has come to auction from Katkov’s descendants.

‘Doctor Zhivago’ typescript at Forum Auctions

The pages accompanying the copy of the ‘Doctor Zhivago’ typescript at Forum Auctions showing the breakdown of the novel into 38 segments for the BBC broadcast.