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May 1956. A poet presses a manuscript into the hands of an Italian publishing scout with these words: 'This is Doctor Zhivago. May it make its way around the world.' The poet was Boris Pasternak. Pasternak knew his novel would never be published in the Soviet Union as the authorities regarded it as seditious, so, instead, he allowed it to be published in translation all over the world. But in 1958, the CIA - recognising that the Cold War was above all an ideological battle - published Doctor Zhivago in Russian and smuggled it into the Soviet Union. It was immediately snapped up on the black market and passed surreptitiously from friend to friend. Pasternak, whose funeral in 1960 was attended by thousands of readers who stayed for hours in defiance of the watching KGB, helped define the great Soviet tradition of the writer-dissident. With sole access to otherwise classified CIA files, the authors give us an irresistible portrait of the charming and passionate Pasternak and a twisting thriller that takes us deep into the Cold War, back to a time when literature had power to shape the world.
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