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The Zhivago Affair


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About the Author

Peter Finn is National Security Editor for The Washington Post and previously served as the Post's bureau chief in Moscow.

Petra Couvee is a writer and translator and teaches at Saint Petersburg State University.

The Zhivago Affair is their first collaboration together.


"Beautifully crafted and scrupulously researched. . . . A kind of intellectual thriller. . . . Well-paced and exciting." -Alan Furst, The Washington Post

"A fascinating book that is thoroughly researched, extraordinarily accurate in its factual details, judicious in its judgments, and destined to remain the definitive work on the subject for a very long time to come." -New York Review of Books

"Riveting, well-researched . . . Reads like a literary thriller." -The New Republic

"A rich and unanticipated story. . . . Finn and Couvee's poignant depiction of Pasternak is the book's greatest strength." -The Daily Beast

"A work of deep historical research that reads a little like Le Carre. . . . The authors show how both sides in the Cold War used literary prestige as a weapon without resorting to cheap moral equivalency." -New York

"An informative, fascinating, and often moving account of personal courage, espionage and propaganda, and the role of literature in the political struggle for the hearts and minds of people." -Huffington Post

"Thrilling. . . . Deftly combining biography, cultural history and literary tittle-tattle, [Finn and Couvee] have shone a light on a shadowy operation. . . . Crushingly poignant." -Newsday

"Fascinating. . . . The story of how Doctor Zhivago helped disrupt the Soviet Union holds some intriguing implications for the present and future of cultural conflict." -The Atlantic

"A remarkable story and fully sourced book, the scholarship peerless but never eclipsing one amazingly humanist story of a towering figure." -New York Journal of Books

"The authors persuasively argue that the ripples from the publication of this single book affected not only the author, his family and his friends, but also changed the balance of power in the world during a critical period." - Columbus Dispatch

"A galloping page-turner and a stark picture of a nation ruled by terror and unreason, which reads like a sinister rewrite of Alice in Wonderland." -Sunday Times (London)

"Extraordinary. . . . There is much to think about in The Zhivago Affair: the nature of genius; the terror that leads people to betray friends; and, above all, the potency of fiction. . . . The Zhivago Affair reveals the story of that triumph with vibrant authenticity and calm analysis." -The Independent on Sunday (London)

"Excellent, superbly researched, and as exciting in its way as any Cold War thriller. Pasternak himself emerges clearly and strongly in all his complexity. This was the most important literary controversy of the post-war world, and Finn and Couvee have presented it with immense care and colour. The aftermath of the affair still has resonance even now." -John Simpson, BBC News

"Finn and Couvee deal objectively with the characters involved and tell the story with exceptional vivacity." -Literary Review

"Fascinating... [Finn and Couvee] manage to shed new light on both the period and the characters involved." -Financial Times

"An extraordinary, gripping tale of art and espionage, The Zhivago Affair embodies the belief shared by its flamboyant cast of geniuses, barbarians, lovers and eccentrics: books matter." -A. D. Miller, author of Snowdrops

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