Irving Howe

Boris Pasternak Lived In The Wrong Century

Irving Howe on the tragedy of our twentieth-century Tolstoy

Boris Pasternak was born 124 years ago on this day. In honor of his birthday, here is Irving Howe's appraisal of the unique genius of Pasternak's best-known work, Doctor Zhivago.

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There's way more to Frost than "The Road Not Taken."

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The Old Magician

A defense of the late, scolding Tolstoy

The old magician stands before me, alien to all, a solitary traveler through all the deserts of thought, in search of an all-embracing truth which he has not found—I look at him and, although I feel sorry for the loss, I feel pride at having seen the man.        -Maxim Gorky, Reminiscences

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Boris Pasternak won the Nobel Prize in 1958 and refused to accept it. 

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Doris Lessing, who died Sunday at 94, is being remembered as a shatterer of literary and political conventions. In 1962, 45 years before she won the Nobel Prize, Lessing was the subject of a lengthy review in The New Republic by Irving Howe.

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The Old Magician

Reading the aged Tolstoy stirs the heart. He will not yield to time, sloth, or nature. He clings to the waist of the life force. Deep into old age, he

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The idea of character, once taken to be central to the reading of novels, has come into critical disrepute. Literary theorists are eager to dismember

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The Spell of Fagin

Oliver Twist can attract and hold almost every kind of imagination, since its main figures—the defenseless waif, the devilish fence, the unctuous bead

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Faulkner: End of a Road

The Mansion By William Faulkner (Random House, $4.75)   The Snopeses have always been there. No sooner did Faulkner come upon his central subject—how the corruption of the homeland, staining its best sons, left them without standards or defense—than Snopesism followed inexorably. Almost anyone can detect the Snopeses, but describing them is very hard. The usual reference to “amorality,” while accurate, is not sufficiently distinctive and by itself does not allow us to place them, as they should be placed, in a historical moment.

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