Souvarine and Berberova

In his magisterial “The Encounter of the Russian Emigration with Doctor Zhivago” (2009; second edition as Fleishman 2013), Lazar Fleishman investigated the role of the Russian emigration in the publication and the reception of Doctor Zhivago. Among other things, Fleishman was interested in the role of TsOPE (ЦОПЭ) and Nina Berberova in the saga of the publication of the Russian text. This post is a footnote to Fleishman’s book and contributes some interesting details connected to TsOPE and to Berberova’s role, or lack thereof, in the publication of the Russian text of the novel. The new material comes from the correspondence between Boris Souvarine and Nina Berberova.

Let’s begin with some background. At least six typescripts of Doctor Zhivago arrived in the West between May 1956 and March 1957. The story of those typescripts and their role in the publication history of Doctor Zhivago is recounted in my “Zhivago’s Secret Journey: from typescript to book” (2016). None of those typescripts reached the political organization of Russian emigrés known as TsOPE. Indeed, Pasternak was wary of any publication of his novel that could be traced to émigrés political organizations because this would have worsened his position in the Soviet Union.

TsOPE stands for “Central Union of Postwar Immigrants”, a Munich based group; in 1957 it renamed itself “Central Union of Political Immigrants”. While the acronym TsOPE remained the same, the group changed the nature of its work and expanded.

In September 1957 a New York office was opened of which Nina Berberova became the secretary.


Nina Berberova

In a letter to Yuri Ivask, who had asked details about TsOPE, she wrote:

To answer your question: TsOPE is the Central Union of Political Immigrants in Munich. They publish an illustr.[ated] monthly “Svoboda [Freedom]” for which I work. The almanacs will be called “Almanacs of Freedom.” This isn’t a political party and there won’t be any politics, no “Bolshevik-eating” either, just a literary space for which it seems there is a need. By the way, the first issue will contain some hitherto unknown prose by Pasternak. (Berberova to Ivask, 15 February 1958, Berberova Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale)

It is obvious that TsOPE was interested in the work of Pasternak. But were they involved in the publication of Doctor Zhivago in Russian? As far as we can tell, it took almost a year and a half from the arrival of the first typescript of Doctor Zhivago in the West (the one brought by d’Angelo to Feltrinelli in May 1956) until efforts were made on the part of members of TsOPE to get hold of a typescript of Doctor Zhivago. In November 1957, just a few days before the first worldwide publication of Doctor Zhivago (in Italian), a member of TsOPE, Victor Frank, was looking for a copy of the Russian typescript. On November 18, 1957, he wrote to his mother, Tat’yana Seergevna as follows:

I dream of organizing its publication in Russian. Here, at TsOPE, we have the money for that, and I have written to Katkov with a request to find out whether it is possible to obtain the Russian text. It would be funny and embarrassing if the novel was published in all languages, except for Russian—and it would be impossible to harm Pasternak now because the novel is being published abroad anyway and the Soviet authorities know that there are a number of copies of the Russian text beyond their borders. (Quoted in Fleishman 2009, 43–44)

George Katkov had visited Pasternak in September 1956 and had received his own copy of the typescript in March 1957. But he knew that Pasternak would have been endangered by a publication originating from émigrés organizations such as TsOPE and surely he did not heed Frank’s request for the original Russian typescript.

Meanwhile plans for publication of the Russian text were taking shape in France. Pasternak had given two typescripts of his novel to two young French scholars, Hélène Peltier and Jacqueline de Proyart. The two typescripts were in France by February 1957. Peltier and de Proyart were charged by Pasternak with the task of finding a publisher for the French translation and also to look into the possibility of publishing the Russian text. Gallimard was soon contacted and plans for the translation of Doctor Zhivago into French were under way by the summer of 1957.

At the same time Nicolas Nabokov,


Nicolas Nabokov

the secretary of the Congress for the Freedom of Culture, and Boris Souvarine proposed to Gallimard a limited edition of the Russian text. Boris Souvarine (1895–1984) was a French Marxist and a founder of the French Communist Party. In the early twenties, he had been a member of the Comintern, from which he had been expelled in 1924 on account of his anti-Stalinist stand. He was also a historian, essayist, and journalist with a deep knowledge of Soviet matters.

On August 29, 1957, Brice Parain –lecteur at Gallimard– wrote the following memo for Claude Gallimard:

Memo for Mr Claude Gallimard. B. Pasternak. NABOKOV (not the writer but the musician, the one at UNESCO) who is very excited by Pasternak’s novel (he has read it in Russian using the text which is in England) would like and could arrange for a publication of a Russian edition in France with a limited edition of 1000 copies not for sale so that the book could at least be found in Western libraries. One would of course first need to obtain Pasternak’s authorization. If the answer is positive, Boris SOUVARINE asks whether you would be willing to put your name on this Russian edition. NABOKOV would cover the entire costs of the operation. This edition would be strictly not for sale in order not to hamper PASTERNAK’s conversations with the Soviet government. 29 August 1957, B. PARAIN (Archives Gallimard, Paris)

A second memo, dated November 21, 1957, says:

Pasternak’s novel. Boris SOUVARINE and NABOKOV (the one at UNESCO) having learned that we have negotiated for PASTERNAK’s novel with FELTRINELLI insist that we should consider the possibility of a Russian edition with our imprint. Let me remind you that their proposal is the following: this Russian edition will be limited to approximately 1,000 copies, not for sale; all the expenses will be covered through funds that they will put together and it will only be under this condition that we will engage with the proposal. What they desire is to be sure that the complete Russian text will exist, even if it is not published in the USSR, so that it could be distributed to libraries and institutions in the Western world. B. PARAIN, 21 November 1957 (Archives Gallimard, Paris)

These two memos give us the context for the Souvarine-Berberova correspondence that I would like to bring to the attention of the reader. In the Souvarine Papers at Harvard there is a letter from Nina Berberova to Boris Souvarine written on December 17, 1957.

Boris Souvarine

Boris Souvarine

The letter, which bears the stamp “Z.O.P.E. American Branch 430 West 57th St. New York 19, N.Y.” contains some interesting elements and shows that TsOPE had not yet managed to get a typescript of Doctor Zhivago:

Nina Berberova-Kochevitsky

December 17, 1957

Dear Boris,

Here are a few lines from someone whom you surely have forgotten a long time ago. I am in New York, I work, and I went through some pretty strange hard times. I have been married since 1954 (to a musician). At times I see again some mutual friends who speak about you (when they return from Europe). For a very long time I kept a distance from any “emigrantskie” business. In September an organization (Munich) asked me to take care of their business in the USA. It is TsOPE (Central’noe Ob’edinenie Politicheskikh Emigrantov). Some recent emigrants want to publish a thick and heavy (and slighly inflated, on the one hand) collection of “Russian literature”, which, they claim, is still alive! I try to do some things and I have promised them to ask you if you have in your hands Pasternak’s typescript (Doctor Zhivago), in Russian, of course. The fact is that these lads in Munich have a printing press which they own and something in this direction could be done, if you understand what I mean [the last clause in English in the original, PM]. There is total disinterest on their part on financial matters, no one wants to profit from it. But they heard that in Paris, where apparently the manuscript circulates, there are people who actually want to profit from this. Perhaps it would be good for you (if you are looking for a publisher) to get in contact with them. Here is the address:

            Herr Georg Pismenny

            Hohenzollernstrasse 79/I

            München 13, Germany

I plan to come visit you in 1959. I have already started saving money. I have a thousand things to tell you and a thousand to ask you. AFK [Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky] is old and sad, BIN [Boris Ivanovich Nikolaevsky] sleeps on different couches here and there; Volsky (de Plessy Robinson) does not write to me anymore. I heard that the Sputnik was the coup de grace for him.

All the best,

Nina Berberova

(Souvarine Papers, Houghton library; carbon copy also available in the Berberova Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale; original in French)

What information can we draw from the letter? First of all, it is clear that TsOPE was actively looking for a typescript of Doctor Zhivago and that Frank’s efforts had not been crowned with success (otherwise there would have been no reason for Berberova to continue looking for the typescript). Secondly, Berberova had some vague information about a typescript circulating in Paris and the fact that Souvarine had something to do with it.

Souvarine replied to Berberova on December 28, 1957. On the Zhivago issue he wrote:

What you say about Doctor Zhivago is inexact. I am well informed on this: the typescript does not circulate, no one has it, except Feltrinelli who has entrusted copies to Gallimard and Collins for the translations. The instructions are well respected, there are no leaks, the translators are serious and will not let go of the Russian text. In France four translators are at work, each one responsible for one fourth of the novel.

            Someone whose name I am not authorized to mention has the intention to publish the original Russian in one year, in an edition not for sale and only for libraries. Let us hope that no obstacles will come in between. If anything new comes up, I will inform you. (Souvarine to Berberova, December 28, 1957; Berberova Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale; original in French)

It is almost certain that Souvarine was intentionally hiding the fact that, in addition to the photocopy of Feltrinelli’s typescript for Gallimard, there were also the typescripts owned by de Proyart and Peltier in France. Regardless, the above information corresponds exactly with the contents of the Gallimard memos and it is easy to see that the unnamed person was Nicolas Nabokov. Souvarine knew the translators of the novel and appeared to be well-informed about the French publication projects.

On January 20, 1958, Souvarine wrote  a short letter to Berberova:

Dear friend, there are some news. Someone has arrived from Moscow with an authorization written by Pasternak for the publication of his text in Russian. But then it was realized that he had already given a similar authorization to others. Feltrinelli, for his part, claims to have all the rights. From this mess, anyway, sooner or later a Russian edition will appear. The essential is that it be done well.

Yours, B.S. (Souvarine to Berberova, January 20, 1958; Berberova Papers, Beinecke Library, Yale; original in French)

The person who had come back from Moscow was Hélène Peltier who brought back several news and letters from Pasternak. Pasternak had been informed by Peltier that a plan to have the Russian text published with Mouton, a Dutch publisher, was discussed on December 12, 1957, among Jacqueline the Proyart, her husband Daniel, Hélène Peltier, Clemens Heller and two Mouton representatives (on the whole episode see de Proyart 1994 and Mancosu 2013). Among the letters Peltier brought back from Moscow was one for Feltrinelli explicitly asking Feltrinelli to leave de Proyart and Peltier in charge of the Russian edition of the text with Mouton. The Souvarine-Nabokov project of publishing the Russian text was derailed by the fact that Pasternak had entrusted the project to de Proyart and Peltier.

Berberova replied on January 26, 1958:

Dear friend,

As I know you are overwhelmed by work and what your days look like, I am quite touched by your letter giving me news of Zhivago. I hope that the differences between Feltrinelli and “the man who came from Moscow” will not end up in court and will not delay the publication of the book. You say: “The essential is that it be done well.” As something tells me that you will be in charge of it+, I am sure it will, IF they will let you do it.

In the note corresponding to + she added:

“It is neither a question nor an insinuation. You need not answer me.” (Souvarine Papers, Houghton library; original in French)

A note from Brice Parain to Souvarine preserved in the Souvarine Papers confirms that Souvarine had been lent the Russian typescript on September 9, 1958. By that time the Mouton edition, a CIA sponsored pirate edition, had already come out in early September 1958 in Holland (see Mancosu 2016). While the TsOPE office in New York, received two copies of the Mouton edition and passed one to the Russian daily Novoe Russkoe Slovo, little can be concluded from that as to Berberova’s knowledge of what had happened with the Russian edition. Indeed, from two letters exchanged between Berberova and Souvarine at the end of 1958, it becomes clear that she was in the dark as to who was behind the Mouton edition. In a letter to Souvarine, dated December 7, 1958, Berberova wrote that in the last months she had vaguely felt his presence in the Doctor Zhivago affair. Souvarine replied to Berberova on December 10, 1958 claiming only some involvement in the French developments: “non je n’y suis pour rien, sauf dans une certaine mesure, en France, mais ce serait trop long à raconter”. And while it is unfortunate that Souvarine did not say more about his involvement with Doctor Zhivago in France, by implication he excluded any role in the publication of the Russian edition of Doctor Zhivago.

It is my sense that after the information Souvarine had given to Berberova, TsOPE gave up on the idea of publishing a Russian edition of Doctor Zhivago. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that when Katkov visited Victor Frank in Munich in early March 1958, Katkov went to speak to the American Consul in Munich concerning Pasternak and the publication of Doctor Zhivago in Russian. As part of a follow up the Consul, Edward Page, Jr., wrote to the Department of State in Washington:

A few preliminary inquiries by the Consulate General tend to indicate that there are no plans by Soviet emigrès, or similar groups in Munich, to bring out a Russian edition of DR. ZHIVAGO.

[signature] Edward Page, Jr., American Consul General, (cited in Zhivago’s Secret Journey, p. 178)

Let us conclude by revisiting Berberova’s article in Svoboda published in July 1958, which prima facie seemed to provide evidence for claiming that she had inside information about the efforts connected to the publication of the Russian Zhivago. She wrote:

Doctor Zhivago has so far only been published in Italian, and yet all across Europe and America articles concerning it have appeared. Various rumors abound, some of which can be verified, while others can’t. It is reliably well-known that the novel will soon be published in France, England, and the US. Will it be released in Russian? Without a doubt – but not in the Soviet Union. …

“But where is the Russian edition?” the reader will ask. “Where is it? Are we really never going to see it?” Rumors, and only rumors – unverified and contradictory – are flying from Europe to America and back. The following conclusions can be drawn from them:

The novel will be published in Russian in Paris at the end of 1958, but it is not yet known whether it will be widely available or if it will appear only as a “semi-fancy” edition for libraries and collectors. This is essentially already settled, or at the very least, had been settled until recently. In recent days there have been rumors that Pasternak gave the rights to publish the novel in Russian abroad to one person who had been to Russia, but not Feltrinelli. Since Feltrinelli, seemingly, has all the rights (being both Pasternak’s publisher and agent), is an argument brewing over this issue, and could this argument influence the release of the book? All of these are merely conjectures. An argument, or even potentially a court battle, between two individuals who have Pasternak’s approval to publish his novel in Russian, is undoubtedly a threat to the successful publication of the novel. We hope that things do not go that far.” (N. Berberova, About the novel “Doctor Zhivago”, cited in the original Russian in Fleishman 2009, p. 111)

Referring to these passages, on p. 113 of his 2009 book, Fleishman wrote:

The provided citation from Berberova’s article is evidence that she was, undoubtedly, aware of the efforts underway in preparing the Russian publication of Pasternak’s novel and was informed – or, more precisely, found it necessary to tell readers – of the conflict that erupted between the (unnamed in the article) countess Jacqueline de Proyart (who met with the poet in January 1957) and Feltrinelli (who signed a contract/agreement with Pasternak in the summer of 1956).

On p. 154 Fleishman added:

We will add here that the late A. M. Milrud, who was the curator of TsOPE’s activities, in discussions with us told us how he was provided with a proof of the Russian edition of Zhivago for correction in a great hurry, for practically just one day. N. Berberova’s remarks in her article about the prospects of the publication of Zhivago in Russian are also clarified in this light. We can understand why, despite her underscoring of the conflict (presumably, exaggerated) between the two sides who were granted publication rights by Pasternak, Berberova was absolutely certain that the book would be published without delay – before the end of the year. It’s also clear why news of the appearance of the first Russian copies specifically at TsOPE were announced in NRS [Novoe Russkoe Slovo] so relatively early – already in the second half of September – before Jacqueline [de Proyart], Hélèn [Peltier], and [Giangiacomo] Feltrinelli himself had hoped for the Russian edition to see the light of day.

However, it seems to me that Berberova in her article was simply repeating the information, by then outdated, that she had obtained from Souvarine in January 1958. Her statements do not show that she was in any way au fait of what was going on with the Mouton saga.   However, Milrud’s testimony, reported by Fleishman, still leave open the challenge of understanding how much TsOPE was involved in the events related to the Mouton edition. And while it is by now accepted by scholars that there was no printing of the Russian text on the part of TsOPE, other forms of involvement (proof checking, distribution, etc.) are a definite possibility.


Fleishman, Lazar. 2009. Vstrecha russkoĭ ėmigratsii s ‘Doktorom Zhivago’: Boris Pasternak i kholodnaia voĭna [The encounter of the Russian émigré community with “Doctor Zhivago”: Boris Pasternak and the Cold War]. Stanford Slavic Studies 38.

Fleishman, Lazar. 2013. Boris Pasternak i Nobelevskaia premiia [Boris Pasternak and the Nobel Prize]. Moscow: Azbukovnik (a new edition of Fleishman 2009).

Mancosu, Paolo. 2013. Inside the Zhivago Storm: The Editorial Adventures of Pasternak’s Masterpiece. Milan: Feltrinelli.

Mancosu, Paolo, 2016, Zhivago’s Secret Journey, Hoover Press, Stanford.

Pasternak, Boris. 1994. Lettres àmes amies françaises: 1956–1960. Introduction and notes by Jacqueline de Proyart. Paris: Gallimard.


Zhivago’s Secret Journey is out

I am delighted to announce that Zhivago’s Secret Journey: From Typescript to Book (Hoover Press, Stanford, 2016) is now out.

51N1HHa6T8L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_I append the description found in the flaps of the cover together with the endorsements by Prof. Robert Service (Oxford) and Prof. Lazar Fleishman (Stanford) found in the back cover.

Boris Pasternak began writing Doctor Zhivago in 1945. In 1948 he sent the first four chapters to his sisters in England, aware of the dangers his work in progress would pose for him with the Soviet authorities. The novel was completed in 1955 and between May 1956 and March 1957, Pasternak sent at least six typescripts outside the USSR. This book tells the story of those typescripts.

Continuing the research he began in his 2013 book Inside the Zhivago Storm, Paolo Mancosu conveys through newly discovered archival sources the excitement and pleasure generated by the exploration of events that were treated as top secret by all those involved.

Pasternak had sent Doctor Zhivago abroad hoping to pressure the Soviets to publish the novel at home. Although this effort failed, the astounding success of the translations took everyone by surprise. The book became a tool of the Cold War, with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) secretly orchestrating  a pirate publication of the Russian text in Holland in 1958. Two long-standing mysteries concerning the publication of this pirate edition were determining which typescript served as basis for the edition and who passed the typescript to the CIA. Through a detailed philological analysis, Mancosu solves the first problem and then offers, in the last chapter, a new perspective on who might have given the typescript to the CIA.

Mancosu’s riveting narration of the history of the publication of Pasternak’s epic work takes the reader on a whirlwind tour covering the network of contacts that, from Russia to England, from Poland to Italy, from France to Uruguay, brought about the publication of the novel in Russian and other Western languages. This book constitutes a huge leap forward in our understanding of the most complex political-literary case of the twentieth century.


“Just when we thought that most of the mysteries had been cracked, Paolo Mancosu’s book shows how the foreign publication of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago was an even more complex process than anyone could have imagined. A wonderful work of a true scholar.”
Robert Service, Emeritus Professor of Russian History, St Antony’s College, Oxford

“Paolo Mancosu’s path-breaking  investigations, carried out in public and private archives in several countries, have resulted in a brilliant monograph on the history of the first (the CIA-assisted) publication of the Russian original text of Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago in 1958. Mancosu’s new book resolves almost all the riddles that have haunted Pasternak scholars for more than half a century.”
Lazar Fleishman, Professor of Russian Literature, Stanford University

Zhivago in Mexico and South America (Argentina and Chile)

This is the third and last installment of the series on Doctor Zhivago‘s pirate editions in Mexico and South America. I have decided to leave the original quotes in Italian and Spanish.

Argentina. Tesone went to Buenos Aires to deal with “the pirates” and arrived on January 2, 1959.

Tesone copy

Antonio Tesone

In a letter to Feltrinelli, dated January 8 1959, Tesone informed Feltrinelli that he had managed to have the pirate edition prepared by E.D.R. in Buenos Aires sequestered. He wrote:

Caro Signor Feltrinelli,

Sono qui dal giorno due e la situazione è attualmente a questo punto:

Tre sono le edizioni pirate di cui si abbia sicura conoscenza. Vagamente si parla anche di altre, ma finché queste restano –come finora–totalmente alla macchia, da un lato, non è possibile colpirle e, d’altro lato, non arrecano alcun fastidio.

It is thus sure that despite his being in Buenos Aires, Tesone had not heard anything about the Uruguaian editions, let alone the Mexican one. They are never mentioned in any other documents preserved in the Feltrinelli archives. Of the three pirate Argentianian editions  Tesone had become aware of the first one was quickly dealt with:

Contro l’edizione D.E.R. (Distributori Editori Riuniti: gente infida in tutto il mondo quelli della E.D.A.! [Editori Distributori Associati was Feltrinelli’s distribution agency, P.M.]) si è chiesto, ottenuto ed eseguito un decreto di sequestro, ponendo sotto vincolo anche tutto il materiale di composizione. Attualmente pende la causa di convalida e di merito e mi sto battendo, come sempre e dovunque, per far accogliere la mia solita tesi che non incombe a noi l’onere di provare l’esistenza del famoso contratto con Pasternak. Sotto il profilo commerciale, questa edizione pirata non presenta peró più alcun problema per noi.

The owner of D.E.R, Damián Carlos Hernández, was one of the people that Noguer (and Feltrinelli) sued for copyright infringement (see appendix).

We will have to come back to Tesone’s legal claim, for it is the cornerstone of the legal wrangles and complexities in which Feltrinelli found himself when trying to assert his rights to Doctor Zhivago. After the first court judgment in Buenos Aires of May 5, 1959, the sequestering order was removed (see appendix). There is however no trace that this edition ever came to light. Tesone continued his letter thus:

Maggiori difficoltà si sono incontrate con la seconda edizione corsara: quella de El Forjador (forgiatore di nome anche se forcaiolo di fatto).


El Doctor Yivago, Editorial Forjador, Buenos Aires, 1958

Si tratta di un disperato in istato di dissesto che giuoca tutte le carte su questa scadentissima edizione tirata su carta straccia con corpo tipografico piccolissimo e praticamente non leggibile. Anche qui si è chiesto ed ottenuto un decreto di sequestro, solo che non si riusciva ad eseguirlo per l’assoluta irreperibilità delle copie. Avevo progettato di far intervenire la nostra Ambasciata nei confronti del ministero argentino degli interni per sollecitare un’indagine della polizia. Senonché Giancola, l’addetto commerciale, è stato improvvisamente destinato all’Onu ed è immediatamente partito per l’Italia il giorno stesso che io sono arrivato. Babuscio Rizzo, l’ambasciatore è per contro rientrato dall’Italia solo ieri e mi ha intrattenuto questa mane in un lungo colloquio. Molta cordialità e convenevoli, ma anche la solita inerzia diplomatica: se possibile, evitare a tutti i costi un incidente con l’autorità locale e negare con diplomatica eleganza di introdurre la e.d. Nota Verbale al Governo Argentino. Ero preparato al tradizionale fin de non recevoir, e così ho preannunciato che, se necessario, avrei espresso a titolo assolutamente personale, quale privato cittadino di uno stato amico, meraviglia e stupore per l’illegalità trionfante in campo editoriale in un paese grande e civile (ma non troppo!) come l’Argentina. Tanto è bastato alla nostra inestimabile diplomazia per gettar la spugna, assumendo che in tal caso li avrei violentati a presentare quella nota verbale che intendevano rifiutarmi. Buono a sapersi, anche se ritengo che ormai la cosa sia superata avviandosi, anche qui, la battaglia alla scaramuccia finale. Ieri infatti El Forjador, col coraggio dei disperati, è salido a la calle, facendo la prima apparizione in qualche libreria. Ho subito disposto perché sui due più importanti quotidiani locali –La Prensa e la Nacion – apparisse in data di oggi e in tutte le edizioni la Notificacion allegata alla presente e, nel contempo, ho invitato l’avvocato Mendilaharzu, che è il legale efficiente e competente nominato dall’Editorial Noguer, a sollecitare dal Giudice dell’Ufficio di istruzione un ordine di sequestro penale diramato per telegrafo a tutte le stazioni di polizia. Questa sera ho saputo che il provvedimento è stato concesso e si trova già in stato di esecuzione presso le librerie.

The translator is not named but the translation was made from the Italian text. The edition has 384 pages. The publication date on the copyright page reads November 30, 1958.

Tesone’s notification in La Nacion de Buenos Aires is shown below.

La Nacion

The notification against El Forjador, La Nacion, January 8, 1959

We will see that contrary to Tesone’s predictions, the legal battle against El Forjador, and his owner Demetrio Castagnola, was to become a difficult one. The edition is the following one. There were at least two printings of it but both of them appeared after the Nobel Prize.

I will come back below to the legal action pursued jointly by Feltrinelli and Noguer against El Forjador.

Let us now move to the last pirate edition and Tesone’s description of it.

Resta da dire della terza edizione per 10.000 esemplari preparata da una certa casa Indice e di fatto finanziata da un tale Granda sotto l’alto e discreto patrocinio del direttore della Casa de la Moneda! Questa è l’unica edizione decente anche se economica. Ne ho fatto controllare il valore letterario da un docente dell’Università di Cordoba e mi è stato detto che è buono.

            Sinora con questa gente vige un gentlemen’s agreement per cui noi soprassediamo a chiedere il sequestro e loro ad iniziare la distribuzione in attesa di perfezionare un eventuale accordo. Siamo ancora lontani, ma spero di avere domani un colloquio decisivo e conclusivo con Granda: miro ad acquistare l’intera edizione ad un prezzo conveniente: costo più una modestissima aliquota di utile, per sovrastampare Edit. Noguer e G.G. Feltrinelli, estromettere i clandestini e distribuire noi fissando il prezzo che il mercato consente.

Below is the cover page of the Indice edition.

Indice copy

El Doctor Yivago, Indice, Buenos Aires, 1958

The translation was made by Juan Robledo; it has 469 pages. In one of the first pages it is indicated that the book was printed on December 26, 1958 by Juan Castanola e Hijo (Rio de Janeiro 735, Buenos Aires). It makes reference to the French edition and it is quite clear from the beginning that it was translated from French. It also claims copyright for “Ediciones Indices, Buones Aires, 1958”.

It appears that Tesone’s plan for this last edition bore fruit. In a letter from Pardo to Feltrinelli, dated February 10, 1959, José Pardo, listing the new Noguer editions for Spain and South America, added:

Hay, además, la edición comprada a Granda – 12.000 ejemplares, que se pondrá a la venta muy pronto.

It thus appeared that Noguer had in fact bought the Indice edition. But was it put on sale? If it did, it was not before mid-February 1959. My own copy has a signature with the date 24-V-59. The copy I have in my hands does not show any Feltrinelli or Noguer copyright and/or any printing alterations that had been mentioned by Tesone.

In conclusion, Noguer, Feltrinelli, and Tesone seem to have been unaware of the Mexican and the Uruguayan editions. Of the three Argentinian editions only the first and the third led to a serious legal confrontation. However, in the legal case against El Forjador and D.E.R., we find two more publishers “Quetzal Editora”, whose distributor is identified as Dionisio Carlos Sáenz, and the “Ediciones Graphos”.

Sommario Doctor Zhivago copy

The summary of Doctor Zhivago published by Editora Quetzal in 1958

Quetzal had published a booklet of 89 pages that contained a digest of Doctor Zhivago by Gabriel Jimenez Correa. According to the book’s colophone, it was printed on November 20, 1958, by Hartug Bros. in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. It was obviously distributed in Argentina and other Latin American countries. It claimed to be a digest carried out on the original Russian but looking at the translation, it is more likely that the original Italian had been the source of the digest. Here is how it looked.

I have found no information about how “Ediciones Graphos” was involved in the Doctor Zhivago case.

Whether Noguer and Feltrinelli could have been successful in fighting the ‘pirates’ was questioned by other less scrupulous South American publishers and this allows me to bring in Chile into the picture.

Chile. The following passage, taken from a letter written by the director of Noguer, José Pardo, to Feltrinelli on February 10, 1959, gives a clear idea of the atmosphere surrounding such matters:

Distinguido colega:

Me es muy grato acusar recibo de su atenta del 4 en la que me informa amablemente sobre la gestión que llevó a cabo cerca de Vd. Ed Sr. Aldunade de la casa Zig-Zag de Santiago de Chile.

El Se. Aldunade nos había visitado en el mes de Enero pidiendo una sub-licencia para publicar en Chile una edición “abreviada” (!!!) de EL DOCTOR JIVAGO. Tal edición –según explicó– no debía rebasar la 250 ó 300 páginas, para hacerla asequibile a un amplio sector de lectores (!!!).

Yo manifesté al Sr. Aldunate que no entraba en nuestros propósitos otorgar una sub-licencia para Chile, pero que aun cuando rectificasemos este criterio lo que haríamos nunca serîa otorgar una sub-licencia para una versión mutilada. Le dije que lo impedía no solo nuestro contrato con Vd. Sino nuestro respeto por el autor y su obra y nuestra ética professional.

En el curso de la conversación el Sr. Aldunate se mostró muy escéptico sobre nesutra posibilidades de defense ante posibles ediciones “piratas”. No me pareció muy discrete por su parta sacar a colación este tema, pues para nadie es un secreto que Zig-Zag ha sido y es una editorial pirate. Me limité a decirle que en Chile tenîamos tomadas las medidas precautorias del caso y que estábamos dispuestos a pegar fuerte.

Pardo concluded by saying that although at the beginning there had been problems with stocking the book in Chile, the problem had now been overcome. Zig-Zag had not been the only publisher in Chile interested in Doctor Zhivago. Some further information about Chile’s interest in Doctor Zhivago is found in the preface to the translation of the Autobiography (Autobiografia) published (without any agreement with Feltrinelli) by Editorial del Nuevo Extremo of Santiago del Chile with a print date of January 29, 1959. In the preface the publishers wrote:

En febrero 1958 escribimos nuestra primera carta pidiendo los derechos para traducer al castellano la novella de Boris Pastérnak: El Doctor Zivago.

            Esto sucedía más de medio ano antes de que el gran poeta y novelista ruso fuera agraciado con el Premio Nóbel de Literatura. Seguros que nuestras gestiones tendrían exito, y de que podríamos entregar a Chile uno de los más interesantes testimonies artísticos de la época, dimos comienzo a la traducción de la obra. Desgraciadamente, no legamos un acuerdo complete con el entonces poseedor de aquellos derechos. Y todo, salva la convicción de haber luchado larga y lealmente, quedó en nada.

            Varios meses después supimos que existían nuevas posibilidades de llevar a buen término nuestro empeno: teníamos al alcance de nuestras manos una edición de El Doctor Zivago em lengua rusa. Pero ya era tarde para iniciar su traducción. Había otras ediciones en castellano que estaban por llegar a Chile, por lo que la magnitude de la empresa –tanto en tiempo come en costo– se tornaba difícil de sobrellevar.

In any case, we have seen that Aldunade’s project of a digest was eventually carried out by Quetzal.

Back to Argentina: The battle for the copyright against El Forjador and the “explosive document”

The above description might be of interest as part of the history of the editions of Doctor Zhivago but the legal battle against El Forjador’s owner, Demetrio Castagnola, (and some of the other pirates, see appendix) led to such an entangled situation that it can be used as a case study for the complexities of defending Pasternak and the copyright at the same time. I will present Tesone’s legal claim, the legal strategy followed by the Noguer legal representative, Eduardo Mendilaharzu, and the panic that ensued in Milan as a consequence of it; finally, I will conclude with the legal defeat of Feltrinelli in the Buenos Aires court.

Tesone’s legal claim. Let me begin by recalling that there was a contract between Feltrinelli and Pasternak signed by the latter on June 30, 1956 (for a photographic reproduction see Mancosu 2013, pp. 206-207). While the KGB informed the Central Committee of the CPSU in August 1956 of the existence of such a contract, the details were not exactly known and Pasternak’s protection depended on it not being known that he was earning royalties from the West. While it was important to protect Pasternak before and after the publication of Doctor Zhivago in Italian in November 1957, Pasternak’s well-being became an even bigger concern after the award of the Nobel Prize in October 1958. Thus, axiom number 1, the contract could not be shown. Tesone’s thesis was that in any kind of legal battles, it was not incumbent on Feltrinelli to show the contract and that widespread knowledge that the Italian translation was the first publication worldwide of Doctor Zhivago, should have been sufficient to protect the copyright. In addition, the Italian legislation allowed for a notary to summarize an official document so that the summary could have the same legal value as the original. Antonio Tesone received from Feltrinelli a photocopy of the famous contract on March 1, 1957. Feltrinelli kept the original in a bank in Switzerland (see also appendix). We can see Tesone’s thesis implemented even later, namely from the letter to the Greek lawyer John D. Fotopoulos dated January 22, 1960 concerning the legal action against “Kathimerini” and “Ethnicos Kirix”, two newspapers in Greece that were publishing Doctor Zhivago without any agreement with Feltrinelli. Replying to the request for a copy of the contract, Tesone wrote:

Per ciò che si riferisce alla parte strettamente giuridica della Sua relazione, mi limito ad osservare:

1) che non occorre esibire il contratto di edizione tra Pasternak e Feltrinelli Editore per invocare in Grecia la protezione del diritto d’autore come disposta dalla Convenzione di Berna. È suddificente, mi sembra, invocare il fatto incontestabile che la prima pubblicazione è avvenuta in Italia (art. 4 al 3 C.d.B.) perchè l’opera sia considerate italiana e l’autore e i suoi aventi causa abbiano perciò solo diritto alla protezione convenzionale.

As a replacement for a photocopy of the contract, Tesone often provided –as in this case– a notarized document from which it resulted that there existed a regular publishing contract for the printing, publication and sale of Doctor Zhivago and that Pasternak had ceded to Feltrinelli the rights for the translations in foreign languages.

Having explained Tesone’s thesis, let’s go back now to January 1959, when Tesone optimistically reports to Feltrinelli, in his letter from Buenos Aires, that the battle was nearing its end. From later correspondence it appears that Tesone had been overly optimistic. Tesone had gone to Buenos Aires, surely intentionally, without a copy of the contract with Pasternak. The judge in charge of the legal case against El Forjador insisted on seeing a copy of the contract. On January 30, after his return to Italy, Tesone sent a photographic reproduction of the contract to Noguer’s lawyer Mendilaharzu with precise instructions as to its use. Here is how Tesone recounts the January events to José Pardo of Noguer on August 10, 1959:

Fin dai nostri primi colloqui milanesi, ho tassativamente escluso che Feltrinelli fosse disposto ad utilizzare il contratto sottoscritto dall’Autore per prevalere dei pirati nelle procedure da introdurre contro gli stessi in Argentina o altrove.

            Ella ricorderà, sono certo, che costituiva preoccupazione dominante dell’Editore Feltrinelli che venisse salvaguardata l’integrità morale e fisica dell’Autore, altrimenti posta in pericolo dalla produzione di carte che lo compromettono irremediabilmente nei confronti delle Autorità del suo paese.

Let us pause for a second to remark how such statements fly in the face of those account in the Pasternak literature that describe Feltrinelli as “bent on extracting maximum business advantage from the situation” out of the Pasternak case (see Barnes 1998, p.326, and also p.p. 332 and 365).

Tesone continues by saying:

Così ricorderanno i Sigg. Avalis e Mendilaharzu che sono partito per l’Argentina senza questo documento in valigia e che, solo a seguito della vivissima insistenza di un Giudice e alla tassativa condizione che il contratto venisse esibito non allegato agli atti, ho acconsentito a spedirne una copia successivamente al mio rientro in Italia.

            Esiste, infine, la mia lettera del 30 gennaio 1959 con la quale fissavo limiti rigorosi e non superabili per l’uso del contratto Feltrinelli-Pasternak e richiedevo che il destinatario Mendilaharzu, una volta dimostrata in via private la nostra buona fede al Magistrato, provvedesse all’immediata restituzione di questo esplosivo documento all’editore Feltrinelli.

Mendilaharzu was the lawyer that was representing Noguer (and thus also Feltrinelli) in the legal case against the pirates in Argentina. As the above should make clear, something went wrong with the use of the document. Indeed, during the first week of July, Tesone had been informed, in a letter dated June 29, of an unexpected move by Mandilaharzu who, of his own initiative, had requested a rogatory letter aimed at having the copy of the contract sent to Pasternak so that he could acknowledge his signature on the contract as genuine. The reaction of Tesone and Feltrinelli was immediate. Here is what Tesone writes to Pardo on July 7, 1959:


Spett.le S.A.                                                                Milano, 7 luglio 1959

Editorial Noguer

Paseo de Gracia 98



Caro Avv. Pardo,

Non sono riuscito a realizzare una prenotazione telefonica con lei che avevo riservato questa mane per le ore 18 di oggi.

            Le scrivo dunque quanto avrei volute dirle, anche da parte del Sig. Feltrinelli.

            Ho appena ricevuto una lettera del Dott. Mendilaharzu in data 29 giugno 1959, con la quale mi informa essere in corso di attuazione la rogatoria in Russia, accompagnata da una copia del contratto Feltrinelli-Pasternak, perchè quest’ultimo riconosca l’autenticità della propria firma apposta in calce a tale scrittura.

            Tanto il Sig. Feltrinelli che io siamo estremamente sorpresi per la gravità della cosa che dovrà essere impedita a tutti i costi, con un deciso intervento da parte dell’Editorial Noguer.

            Il Dott. Mendilaharzu ha purtroppo commesso una grave scorrettezza, abusando della fiducia che gli era stata concessa da parte nostra ed evadendo dai tassativi limiti che erano stati da me posti con la lettera del 30 gennaio scorso relativa all’uso autorizzato e agli usi vietati del noto contratto.

            Nè avrei mai ritenuto, dopo aver letto la lettera Argullòs in data 6 giugno scorso, che Avalis e Mendilaharzu avrebbero proseguito sulla pericolosa strada intrapresa, l’esito della quale non può che essere disastroso per tutti, come Ella stesso riconosce nell’ultima parte della Sua lettera in data 10 giugno.

            Se da un lato, è inevitabile che le autorità sovietiche faranno pressioni all’Autore per impedire la conferma della rogatoria, d’altro lato, è chiaro che Feltrinelli e Noguer – in caso di persecuzioni derivanti a Pasternak da questa sciagurata iniziativa– riceveranno su scala mondiale una propaganda negativa e infamante che annullerà d’un colpo tutti i vantaggi acquisiti dagli stessi quali titolari dell’esclusiva nelle zone di rispettiva influenza.

            E questo, senza parlare dei rapporti umani che sarebbero irrimediabilmente pregiuducati una volta che si potesse sostenere che per amore di lucro non avete esitato a giocarvi l’integrità fisica dell’Autore.

            Io so, avvocato Pardo, che Lei è un gentiluomo e conosce da molti anni il mio Cliente Feltrinelli; ma gli altri, i Vostri concorrenti, i giornalisti, i pirati e, in genere, l’opinione pubblica mondiale non potrebbe ritrarre da questo disgraziato affare –se non fosse tempestivamente arestato–che un giudizio profondamente negativo sul piano morale e commerciale.

            E’ dunque necessario che l’Editorial Noguer e il Sig. Argullòs per l’Iber Amer di Barcellona confermino per telefono e telegrafo le istruzioni che passo immediatamente a dare a Mendilaharzu ed Avalis con la lettera allegata in copia.

            Il Sig. Feltrinelli attende di avere sollecite assicurazioni che i responsabili della grave situazione di pericolo così inconscientemente create hanno finalmente rimediato al mal fatto.

            In difetto, dovremmo inevitabilmente reagire con tutta la decisione e l’urgenza che il caso richiede perseguendo anche sul terreno giudiziario le responsabilità di coloro che sono all’origine di questa incredibile vicenda.

            Confido di leggerla d’accordo con noi, e sopratutto, attendo con il Sig. Feltrinelli di sapere con certezza che la rogatoria non avrà mai luogo.

            La prego di accogliere I migliori saluti, anche da parte del Sig. Feltrinelli che dovrà rinviare di qualche tempo il suo previsto viaggio in Ispagna.


Antonio Tesone


The letter also contained the howler for Mendilaharzu.


Egregio Signor                                                 Milano, 7 luglio 1959

Dr. Eduardo F. Mendilaharzu

Avenida de Mayo 749

Buenos Aires


Riscontro la sua del 29 giugno scorso.

            Il Sig. Feltrinelli ed io Le rivolgiamo formale ed espresso invito:

  1. – ad astenersi dal sollecitare l’esperimento della rogatoria in Russia all’Autore Boris Pasternak;
  2. – ad ottenere che la Magistratura non proceda neppure d’ufficio all’esperimento di tale rogatoria;
  3. – a rinunciare, se necessario, a tutte le procedure in corso se il loro preseguimento è subordinato all’esecuzione di tale incombente probatorio;
  4. – a ricordare che con la mia lettera 30 gennaio 1959 sono stati fissati limiti rigorosi e tassativi all’uso del contratto Feltrinelli-Pasternak;
  5. – a non fare conseguentemente più alcun uso d’ora in avanti dell’unica copia fotografica da me trasmessa di detto contratto, che dovrà anzi essere rispedita per posta aerea all’Editore Feltrinelli.

In mancanza di Sua ottemperanza alle istruzioni non modificabili di cui sopra, sono dolente Dott. Mendilaharzu di doverle scrivere che saremo costretti a tenere responsabili dell’inammissibile situazione attuale per tutte le conseguenze di pregiudizio e danni derivanti a chiunque, tutti coloro che hanno contravvenuto al mandato da noi conferito in occasione della trasmissione del documento.

            La gravità della situazione di pericolo posta in essere per l’Autore con questa incomprensibile iniziativa giudiziaria non mi consente, purtroppo, di assumere una posizione diversa.

            Riceverà conformi istruzioni dall’Editorial Noguer cui ho provveduto a scrivere altra lettera in data odierna.

            Copia della presente viene da me inviata, per quanto di sua competenza, anche al Sign. Avalis dell’Iber Amer Argentina.

            Le porgo distinti saluti.

Antonio Tesone.

In sending to Feltrinelli copies of the above correspondence, Tesone dryly commented:

“Dopo queste missive ho l’impressione che Spagna e Argentina diventeranno, per me e per Lei, paesi proibiti o quasi. Vero è però che questa gente ha meritato la nostra reazione ed ho dovuto fare grande fatica per contenere in termini urbani la contestazione.”

             We do not have the letter Pardo wrote in reply to this letter of July 7, 1959 but we know that Pardo replied on July 17 asking for explanations as to the prohibition of any use the contract. The letter from Tesone to Pardo, dated August 10, 1959, was Tesone’s reply to such request.

There is no question that this was the gravest crisis Feltrinelli had to face concerning his own actions with respect to Pasternak’s safety. Feltrinelli’s and Tesone’s analysis of the situation is also fully persuasive. Sending a copy of the contract to the USSR would have meant giving it to the Soviet authorities who would have forced Pasternak to deny that the signature was his and would have also retaliated against him. In addition, they would have become prey of all the negative campaign that would have ensued, which could easily have characterized them as sacrificing Pasternak for some pesos. The tone of the letters leaves no doubt as to the anguish that Mendilaharzu ill-conceived initiative provoked in Milan. Mendilaharzu had probably asked for the rogatory letter because the first judgment had been negative for Noguer and Feltrinelli (see “Sentencia de primera instancia dated May 5, 1959” reported fully in the appendix), despite the fact that the photocopy of the contract had been produced but its veracity had been questioned by the defendants (the pirates).

There had been many previous situations in which Feltrinelli had been asked to show the contract (negotiations and legal action for the movie, the confrontation with The University of Michigan Press concerning the Russian edition, the Greek pirate editions, etc.). He and Tesone never went against what I called axiom 1: the contract was not to be shown. This one exception almost proved disastrous. I think it sheds much light of the human, moral, business, and legal complications that were the essence of the Zhivago affair.

All of this was the consequence of the legal case against El Forjador and some of the other Argentinian pirates. In 2012 the Constitutional Court in Buenos Aires put on line the two court judgments (May 5, 1959, “primera instancia” and September 1, 1959, “segunda instancia”) concerning the case between Noguer and El Forjador at the following link, which contained the text I fully report in the appendix (I am not sure the link is active anymore).

Noguer and Feltrinelli lost and the pirates won. But it had been a calculated retreat. Noguer and Feltrinelli scored a moral victory by asserting the primacy of the moral and physical preservation of Boris Pasternak.



— Buenos Aires, mayo 5 de 1959. —
Resultando: Se presenta Eduardo F. Mendilaharza en representación de “Editorial Noguer” (S. A.), de Barcelona (España), imputando el delito de defraudación de derechos de autor (arts. 71 y 72, incs. a] y c], ley 11.723), al propietario responsable de “Editorial Forjador”, Demetrio Castagnola; al de “D.E.H.” (Distribuidora Editores Reunidos, S. R. L.), Damián Carlos Hernández; al de “Ediciones Graphos”, al de “Quetzal”, cuyo distribuidor doloso sería Dionisio Carlos Sáenz, y al de toda otra edición en castellano de “El Doctor Zhivago”, de Boris Leonidovic Pasternak, que no lleve la marca editorial de su representada o no esté autorizada por ella, en virtud de Lener, “Editorial Noguer” (S. A.) la exclusividad de traducción al español de dicha obra.
Tal derecho de exclusividad deriva del contrato de concesión celebrado entre los representantes de aquélla y “Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Editore, Sociedad en Comandita”, en Milán (Italia), en nov. 14/958, por el cual la última declara y confirma que es titular de los “copyrights” de dicha obra en virtud del contrato celebrado con el autor y en virtud, asimismo, de la Convención Internación de los derechos del autor de Ginebra, puesto que le primera edición ha sido publicada en noviembre de 1957 en Milán (Italia), es decir, en un país adherido a la citada Convención. El contrato mencionado, en certificación y testimonio extendido por el escribano Enrique Gabarro y Samso, de Barcelona (España), de la escritura extendida por el de Milán (Italia), Dr. Gianfranco Franchini, con la debida legalización diplomática, corre agregado de fs. 22 a 25 en los autos caratulados Editorial Noguer” (S. A.) v. “Editorial Forjador” y otros, s/daños e intereses, del juzgado nacional de 1ª instancia en lo civil a cargo del Dr. Alberto R. Gartland, que corre por cuerda.
Tendiente a acreditar la titularidad del derecho de edición y traducción por parte de “Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore”, el denunciante presenta fotocopia del contrato privado que se habría celebrado entre éste y el autor, fechado en Moscú en jun. 30/956, y cuya cláusula 4ª autoriza a aquél para ceder al extranjero los derechos de traducción parcial o integral de la obra, debiendo repartir por mitades con el autor las ganancias resultantes. Expresa el denunciante que “el original, por el valor y la importancia que tiene, está depositado en un Banco de Suiza”, y que no puede proporcionar otros elementos probatorios de que la cesión de Pasternak a Feltrinelli se ha realizado realmente, fuera de los que allí enumera, dadas las circunstancias especiales del autor que son de pública notoriedad, aclarando “que la práctica editorial es la de celebrar contratos de este tipo en forma privada”.
Con la finalidad de probar que la primera publicación de la obra “El Doctor Zhivago” realizada en el mundo fue la edición de Feltrinelli de nov. 15/957, presenta el denunciante copias fotográficas del reverso de la portada de dicha edición y de las ediciones alemana, inglesa, francesa y española, que reconocen a aquella como la primera. De fs. 125 a 129 corren agregadas reproducciones fotográficas de una solicitada publicada por la “Editorial S. A. Mouton y Cía.”, de la ciudad de la Haya, por la cual se destaca que la edición en ruso hecha por dicha editorial no fue autorizada por el editor Italiano, expresando al respecto el denunciante Mendilaharzu, “de lo quo surge el reconocimiento expreso de los derechos de Feltrinelli Editore hasta para publicar en ruso”, y agrega que “tiene entendido que sería materialmente imposible la prueba negativa en todos los países del mundo tendiente, a acreditar que no ha sido publicada la obra citada y que no preexiste una otra autorización a la de Feltrinelli. Que todos los elementos de juicio citados constituyen la presunción “juris tantum” de la primera publicación, que lo es la de Feltrinelli, en los términos de la Convención de Ginebra”. Luego de sugerir la solicitud de informes de editores argentinos acerca de cómo, en el consenso de éstos, de la de Feltrinelli la primera edición en el mundo, expresa que “considera que no podría realizar otra prueba que la referida, tendiente a acreditar que la primera publicación es la de Feltrinelli”.
A fs. 16 y 66, presta declaración testimonial Ofelia Secchia y refiere que, a solicitud del imputado Castagnola, facilitó a éste su domicilio y teléfono “para utilizarlos a raíz de un aviso que colocaría en los diarios, ofreciendo la venta de un libro”.
A f. 68, depone Mercedes Sobrino, que adquiriera en comercio de plaza un ejemplar de “El Doctor Zhivago”, en la “Editorial Forjador”.
A f. 67 y f. 09, respectivamente, Santiago Sentís Melendo y Rogelio Tomás Avalis manifiestan haber visto vender en la vía pública las ediciones impugnadas.
A fs. 132/vta., concluye el denunciante expresando: “Que en Italia, como en los restantes países de Europa, las leyes sobre derechos de autor no imponen formalidades a los efectos del amparo del derecho; que algunas, como Italia, tienen instituido un Registro voluntario de obras editadas en el país a los efectos de mejor pre constituir la prueba de un derecho, razón por la cual Feltrinelli realizó tal inscripción, como lo prueba el certificado glosado a f. 34, al cual sólo falta la legalización por parte de nuestro Min. de Relaciones Exteriores de la firma del cónsul argentino”.
En la demanda promovida por “Editorial Noguer” (S. A.) contra “Editorial Forjador y otros, sobre daños e intereses, ante el juzgado nacional de 1ª instancia en lo civil a cargo del Dr. Alberto R. H. Gartland, secretaría del Dr. Julio S. Gerez, donde la actora consiguió se librara manda, miento de secuestro de la edición Impugnada bajo caución, al presentarse en autos Demetrio Castagnola, en su carácter de único propietario de la “Editorial Forjador, que tiene en trámite la edición de la obra debatida (f. 29 del juicio que corre por cuerda), manifiesta que Feltrinelli publicó la obra en Italia contra prohibición que le hizo conocer Pasternak y que la primera publicación de aquella se efectuó en una revista literaria soviética en forma incompleta, citando al respecto un artículo de Juan Rodolfo Wilcock publicado en “La Prensa” de nov. 9/958, en que se expresa que “la Convención Universal de Ginebra, ratificada por la República Argentina, no es aplicable a este caso por ser Pasternak ruso, la obra «El Doctor Zhivago» rusa, desde que la Unión Rusa de los Soviets no ratificó la referida Convención Universal… si la primera publicación de la obra se hubiera efectuado en Italia, y se tratara de una edición autorizada por el autor, la obra podría tener la protección de la Convención de Ginebra. Como esto no ocurrió en el caso de «El Doctor Zhivago» como ya se ha dicho, el editor Feltrinelli y después la «Editorial Noguer» quieren valerse de la Convención de Ginebra para privar a otros editores del derecho que ellos están usufructuando, desde que de ningún documento resulta que abonen derechos de autor a Pasternak o que tengan concluido con éste algún pacto” en relación con los referidos derechos… Tampoco debemos olvidar que la U.R.S.S. no protege las obras de autores extranjeros, publicadas fuera de Rusia, salvo los casos en que la Unión Soviética tiene concluido un acuerdo con país en que se publicó la obra. Todas las obras argentinas pueden traducirse y publicarse en Rusia, sin abonar derecho alguno a su autor, siendo lógico que nosotros tengamos idéntico derecho con respecto a las obras rusas. Lo mismo ocurre con Italia y por ello la edición de Feltrinelli no es ilícita, a pesar de no tenerse autorización de Pasternak, desde que las obras de éste, y especialmente «El Doctor Zhivago», son propiedad pública en Italia y también en España…”.
A f. 21 de los autos “Editorial Noguer (S. A.) v. “D.E.R.” (S. R. L.), s/daños e intereses, promovidos por igual razón que el anterior y donde se lograra secuestrar bajo caución los plomos destinados a imprimir la edición impugnada, manifiesta Damián Carlos Hernández, en representación de la demandada, de la que es integrante, que la actora, para probar la exclusividad del derecho de traducción y publicación en castellano de la obra, debe acreditar: “a) que el autor era titular de su obra en todos los países del mundo; b) que aquél cedió válidamente a la Editorial Feltrinelli el derecho exclusivo de traducción a todos los idiomas de «El Doctor Zhivago»; c) que en esa cesión se cumplieron los requisitos exigidos por la ley italiana de protección del derecho de autor”.
En cuanto al punto a), dice que Pasternak no tiene sobre su obra el derecho exclusivo de traducción en virtud de no ser incluido tal derecho expresamente entre los que le pertenecen como autor en el art. 7 de la “Ley básica de derechos de autor” para La U.R.S.S. y además por no considerar violatorio de tal derecho a la traducción de la obra el art. 9 de la ley citada. Manifiesta que “este particularísimo régimen legal —que se funda en los beneficios de la difusión popular de las obras intelectuales dentro y fuera, de las fronteras soviéticas—, se confirma con otra disposición de la “Ley complementaria” de oct. 8/928 (texto oficial ruso publicado en “Sobranie Uzakonenil de las Repúblicas Socialistas Soviéticas”, Nº 132, de 1929, texto 861), cuyo art. 16 dispone que “el derecho de hacer traducciones y, de igual modo, las actuales traducciones al idioma ruso, de obras literarias publicadas en idiomas extranjeros dentro de los límites de la U.R.S.S., o fuera de sus limites, podrá ser declarado monopolio de la República por una Resolución del Consejo de Ministros de la U.R.S.S. Quiere ello decir que la regla general es también aquí la libertad de traducir.. .”.
El suscrito ha tenido a la vista el texto de la “Ley básica de «copyright» de la U.R.S.S.” en la publicación efectuada por la UNESCO bajo el título “Copyright laws and treaties of the world” en 1956, que se encuentra en el Reg. Nac. de la Propiedad Intelectual, actualizada por comunicaciones cursadas por la entidad internacional, haciendo saber modificaciones de las diversas leyes. El art. 7 establece que “el autor debe tener el derecho exclusivo de publicar su obra, bajo su nombre real, seudónimo, o sin indicar su nombre (anónimo), y a reproducir o dar curso a su obra por cualquier conducto legal dentro del período de tiempo fijado por la ley y a trasmitir los beneficios de ese derecho en cualquier forma legal”: el art. 9 preceptúa: “las siguientes no son infracciones a los derechos de autor: a) traducción de la obra de otra persona a un idioma distinto…”; el art. 16 dice: “El derecho de autor podrá ser enajenado en su totalidad o en parte por un contrato de edición, testamento o cualquier otra forma legal”; y el art. 20 establece, por último, que “el derecho de autor sobre cualquier obra puede ser compulsoriamente comprado por el Gobierno de la Unión Soviética o por el Gobierno de la República Constituyente en cuyo territorio fuera publicado primeramente como manuscrito, sketch o en cualquier otra forma de presentación”.
En cuanto a lo expresado en el punto c), manifiesta que, en el supuesto de haberse realizado realmente la cesión, no domiciliándose Pasternak en Italia, no le es aplicable la “ley italiana de derechos de autor” de 1941, que establece ese requisito para brindar su protección.
El suscrito tuvo también a la vista la ley italiana 633, para la protección del derecho de autor y otros derechos conexos con el ejercicio de los mismos, de abr. 22/941, actualmente en vigencia de acuerdo con la publicación de la UNESCO ya citada, en cuyo art. 185 se dice: “De acuerdo con las previsiones del art. 189 de esta ley, se aplicará a todas las obras de autores italianos en cualquier parte donde hayan sido publicadas por primera vez. También se aplicarán a las obras de un autor extranjero domiciliado en Italia, cuando sean publicadas por primera vez en Italia. Aparte de las condiciones de protección indicadas en el parágrafo precedente, esta ley podrá además ser aplicada a la obras de autores extranjeros, cuando se cumplan los requisitos indicados en los artículos siguientes”, estableciendo el art. 186 que “las convenciones internacionales para las protecciones de las obras intelectuales regirán el campo de aplicación de esta ley a las obras de los autores extranjeros”. El segundo parágrafo de este artículo y el 187 fueron suspendidos por el decreto Nº 82, de pag. 23/946 del Gobierno Italiano, sobre supresión de algunas prescripciones concernientes a la esfera de aplicación de la ley 633, y
Que la Convención Universal sobre derecho de autor aprobada en ser. 6/952 por una Conferencia Intergubernamental reunida en Ginebra bajo los auspicios de la UNESCO con la intervención de nuestro país, fue ratificada por decreto-ley Nº 12.088/57 , publicado en el “Bol. Of.” de octubre 15. Tal ratificación tiene vigencia por la validez otorgada a los actos del gobierno “de facto” por ley posterior del gobierno constitucional.
El art. 3 de la citada Convención establece que todo estado contratante considerará satisfechas las formalidades exigidas según su legislación interna, como condición para la protección de los derechos de los autores “para toda obra protegida de acuerdo con los términos de la presente Convención, publicada por primera vez fuera del territorio de dicho Estado por un autor que no sea nacional del mismo, si, desde la primera publicación de dicha obra, todos sus ejemplares, publicados con autorización del autor o de cualquier otro titular de sus derechos, llevan el símbolo, acompañado del nombre del titular del derecho de autor y de la indicación del año de la primero publicación”. Vale decir que la oposición de ese signo constituye sólo una presunción “prima facie” de reserva de derechos, que permitirá eximir al editor de las formalidades nacionales, mas para que su edición sea protegida deberá acreditar que sus ejemplares fueron “publicados con autorización del autor o de cualquier otro titular de sus derechos”.
La medida de esa protección la establece el art. 2, cuando dice: “Las obras publicadas de loe unción a les de cualquier Estado contratante, así como las obras publicadas por primera vez en oí territorio de tal Estado, gozarán en cada uno de los otros Estados contratantes de la protección que cada uno de estos Estados conceda a las obras de sus nacionales publicadas por primera vez en su propio territorio”. Equipara, pues, este artículo, al extranjero con el nacional en cuanto a protección de su derecho y dado que al editor nacional de una obra publicada por primera vez en nuestro propio territorio se le exigirá —para acreditar la titularidad del derecho de propiedad intelectual— probar debidamente la cesión por parte del autor, o que se encuentra en el caso del art. 4, inc. c, ley 11.723 (“los que con permiso del autor la traducen…), es obvio que igual exigencia cabe hacer al editor extranjero.
En tal sentido, considera, el suscrito que no es suficiente para acreditar la cesión de derechos de traducción por parte de Boris I. Pasternak a Feltrinelli la fotocopia de un contrato privado que se habría celebrado entre las partes y que corre a fs. 92/3. Tampoco lo sería el original de dicha fotocopia, que no haría fe suficiente por tratarse de un instrumento privado cuya autenticidad puedo ser puesta en duda. Ello a despecho de que sea común suscribir en forma privado contratos editoriales o de la imposibilidad de que el cedente ratifique ahora el acto —de haberse este realizado realmente— por la situación política en que se encuentra. Tal situación es, precisamente, la que da caracteres especiales a este caso y dificulta la prueba acerca de la verdad de lo acontecido.
No estando suficientemente acreditada la cesión no corresponde entrar a considerar si el cedente, en caso de haberla realizado, lo habría hecho con derecho de acuerdo con la ley rusa ya trascrita: si las limitaciones que ésta contiene afectan la cesión; y si influye para la solución del caso la circunstancia de que la Convención de Ginebra de 1952 no haya sido ratificada por la U.R.S.S. Tampoco es menester entrar a considerar si está suficientemente probado que la edición de “Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, Milano” de 1957, fue la primera publicación mundial de la obra.
La forma de tutela penal de los derechos intelectuales queda concretada en la ley 11.723 por medio de los arts. 71, 72 y siguientes. La primera norma reprime con la pena establecida en el art. 172 al que “de cualquier manera y en cualquier forma defraude los derechos de propiedad intelectual que reconoce esta ley”. La Cam. Crim. Cap. ha establecido, en fallo publicado en “La Ley”, t. 2, p. 454 , que es condición imprescindible anterior y previa para la aplicación de esa norma, que exista una defraudación en el sentido jurídico de este vocablo, surgiendo ello del texto expreso de la ley y de lo manifestado en oportunidad de su sanción por el miembro informante del proyecto en la Cámara de Diputados de la Nación.
El art. 72, aplicable en este caso, estatuye que “se considerarán casos especiales de defraudación y sufrirán la pena por él establecida, además del secuestro de la edición ilícita; a) El que edite, venda o reproduzca por cualquier medio o instrumento, una obra inédita o publicada sin autorización de su autor o derechohabientes…”. La punibilidad surge de la circunstancia de qué el titular del derecho sobre la obra editada, vendida o reproducida no baya autorizado la edición, la venta o la reproducción.
La misma cámara ha establecido, en fallo publicado en “La Ley”, t. 17, p. 724, que el requisito de que la conducta reputada dolosa reúna los elementos del delito de defraudación es aplicable sólo al art. 71, no al 72, pues los enumerados en éste, a pesar de ser considerados “casos especiales de defraudación”, son susceptibles de ser reprimidos con la pena que establece el art. 71, sin que se requiera otra cosa que la presencia de los elementos integrantes de cada uno de ellos (conf. Gómez. “Leyes penales comentadas”, t. 4, p. 287).
La Convención Universal sobre derecho de autor, aprobada en Ginebra en 1952, es un acuerdo internacional de derecho privado y no puede modificar en modo alguno los elementos del delito de defraudación de derechos intelectuales estatuidos con anterioridad a su sanción por la ley 11.723 pues ésta, como toda la materia penal, es de regulación exclusiva del derecho público interno o local, de acuerdo con principios unánimemente establecido en derecho internacional y cuya violación lesionaría la soberanía del Estado afectado. Siendo ello así, la ratificación de la citada Convención no modifica el régimen de tutela penal del derecho de autor estatuido en la ley 11.723 no obstando para arribar a tal conclusión el carácter de Ley Suprema de que la Convención está investida por el art. 31, Const. Nac., dado que tal carácter le es conferido en la materia que regula, es decir, la tutela en el aspecto del derecho privado de la propiedad privada.”
El delito enunciado en el art. 72, inc. a, ley 11.723, está comprendido entro los que ocasionan lesión patrimonial —sin olvidar por ello la protección del derecho moral del autor sobre su obra—; en consecuencia, es menester que exista, para que se perfeccione, perjuicio identificado.
Encontrándose indeterminada la titularidad del patrimonio afectado por lo que queda expuesto y discutido, por otra parte, el derecho a publicar la obra, en los juicios que corren por cuerda; siendo independientes los procesos civil y criminal; y no afectándose sus resoluciones —art. 77, ley cit. , corresponde arribar a esta causa a una resolución de carácter provisorio.
Es menester dejar claramente establecido que el pronunciamiento a que el suscrito llega en esta causa, en modo alguno significa amparar a editores irresponsables de nuestro medio o hacer ilusoria la protección internacional otorgada a los editores extranjeros por la Convención de Ginebra. Si de autos surgiere con evidencia y suficientemente acreditado que el derecho representado del denunciante deriva de quien realizara la primera publicación de la obra, con autorización fehaciente del autor, no vacilaría en otorgarle toda la protección que la ley argentina otorga al nacional en idéntica situación.
Por ello, conforme a lo precedentemente dictaminado por el agente fiscal y de acuerdo con lo dispuesto en el art. 435, C. Pr. Cr., resuelvo sobreseer provisionalmente en esta causa; déjense sin efectos las órdenes de secuestro decretadas; líbrese en tal sentido oficio a la Policía Federal y exhorto al juez en lo criminal en turno de Mar del Plata. — Jorge Alberto Aguirre (Sec.: Oscar Jorge García Rúa).


Buenos Aires, setiembre 1 de 1959.—
Como lo pone de manifiesto el a quo en la resolución de f. 142, a la que se remite el pronunciamiento recurrido, no se ha acreditado en autos que la edición Feltrinelli de la obra “El Doctor Zhivago”, de Boris Leonidovic Pasternak, se haya publicado con autorización de su autor o de cualquier otro titular de sus derechos como lo exige el art. 3 de la Convención de Ginebra para que la obra sea protegida.
El mencionado artículo solamente exime al editor del cumplimiento de algunas formalidades pero no de acreditar que la edición puesta en circulación es legítima, sea ésta o no la primera, pues también siendo la primera puede ser clandestina y no merece protección alguna.
Por ello y por no haber acreditado el recurrente que sea la persona particularmente ofendida por el delito que denuncia, se confirma la resolución apelada en cuanto fue materia de apelación, con costas.


Acknowledgements. I would like to thank Carlo Feltrinelli was his generous and continued support and for having given me permission to quote from the Feltrinelli archives in Milan.


Unpublished sources:

Fondo Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Milan: Fascicoli Gaisenhayner, Pardo, Tesone.

Archivio Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Carte Pasternak: fascicolo Collins.

Published sources:

Araújo, M., 1958, Para Comprendeer ‘O doutor Jivago’” COPAC, Rio de Janeiro.

Barnes, C., 1998, Boris Pasternak, A literary bibliography, vol. 2. 1928-1960, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Feltrinelli, C., 1999, Senior Service, Feltrinelli Editore, Milano. Translated into English, with a few cuts, as: Senior Service, Granta Books, London, 2001. The American edition, published in 2001 by Harcourt, cuts several additional important parts of the book.

Garcia, Ivan, and San Vicente, Ricard, 2011, Sobre El doctor Jivago i les seves versions, [in Catalan], TRILCAT, 45 pp.

Grandi, A., 2000, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. La dinastia, il rivoluzionario, Baldini&Castoldi, Milano.

Iannello, G., 2009, ‘Zivago tradito’: storia delle traduzioni manomesse del romanzo di Pasternak in Italia, in Parysiewicz Lanzafame, A., ed., Pietro Zveteremich. L’uomo, lo slavista, l’intellettuale. Atti del convegno di studi, Centro di Studi Umanistici, Messina, 2009, pp. 109-116.

Mancosu, P., 2013, Inside the Zhivago Storm. The editorial adventures of Pasternak’s masterpiece, Feltrinelli, Milan.

Mancosu, P., 2015, Smugglers, Rebels, Pirates. Itineraries in the publishing history of Doctor Zhivago, Hoover Press, Stanford.

Pasternak, 1957, Il Dottor Zivago. Romanzo, Feltrinelli, Milan,

Pasternak, 1958a, El Doctor Yivago, translated by Vladimir Koslov and Jorge Diez Cardoso, Ediciones Capricornio, Mexico.

Pasternak, 1958b, El Doctor Jivago, (Galeria Literaria), translated by Fernando Gutiérrez, Noguer, Barcelona-Mexico.

Pasternak, 1958c, El Doctor Yivago, translated by Juan Robledo, Ediciones Indice, Buenos Aires.

Pasternak, 1958d, El Doctor Yivago, El Forjador, Buenos Aires.

Pasternak, 1958e, El Doctor Zhivago, translated by Vicente Oliva, Minerva, Montevideo.

Pasternak, 1958f, El Doctor Zhivago, Editora Quetzal.

Pasternak, 1958g, O doutor Jivago, translated by Oscar Mendes and Milton Amado, Editora ITATIAIA, Belo Horizonte, first edition.

Pasternak, B., 1958h, Doktor Zhivago. Roman, Feltrinelli (-Mouton), [The Hague].

Pasternak, B., 1958i, Le Docteur Jivago, Flammarion, Paris.

Pasternak, B., 1958k, Doctor Zhivago, English translation by Max Hayward and Manya Harari, Collins Press, London.

Pasternak, B., 1958l, Doctor Zhivago, with revisions to the English translation, Pantheon, New York.

Pasternak, 1959a, Doctor Yivago, Ediciones Ciceron, Montevideo.

Pasternak, 1959b, O doutor Jivago, translated by Oscar Mendes and Milton Amado, Editora ITATIAIA, Belo Horizonte, second edition.

Pasternak, 1959c, Autobiografia, translated by Olga Ricart de Weeren, Editorial del Nuevo Extremo, Santiago del Chile, Chile.

Pasternak, B., 1959d, Doktor Zhivago. Roman, Société d’Edition et d’Impression Mondial, Paris.

Pasternak, 1960, O doutor Jivago, translated by Augusto Abelaria with preface by Aquilino Ribeiro, Livraria Bertrand, Lisbon.

Pasternak, 1964, Doktor Zhivago. Roman, Zemlia i Fabrika, Moscow [but in reality, Flegon Press, London].

Pasternak, B., 1994, Lettres à mes amies françaises. 1956-1960, Introduction et Notes de Jacqueline de Proyart, Gallimard

Zendejas, F, 1958, La pasón de Pasternak (premio nobel 1958). Con fragmentos del libro « El Doctor Yivago »/El misterio del caso Pasternak, México: Libro Mex Eds., pp. 147.


Zhivago in Mexico and South America (Mexico and Uruguay)

The Spanish edition

Feltrinelli began selling the translation rights to the Zhivago in Spring 1957. The first to obtain translation rights was Collins, followed in the fall by Gallimard. On November 25 1957, Feltrinelli had expressed himself pessimistically about the possibility of publishing the novel in Spain. He wrote to his agent Gaisenheyner:

“Zu Spanien haben wir dass Buch nicht verkauft werden es auch auf grunder der dort wirkenden politischen Lage nich noch verkaufen.”[sic] (Fondo Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, dossier Gaisenheyner))

But in 1958, Feltrinelli sold the translation rights for the Spanish language to the Editorial Noguer of Barcelona (with an important branch in Mexico). Noguer signed the contract with Feltrinelli on November 14, 1958


El Doctor Jivago, Noguer, Barcelona-Mexico,

Feltrinelli also gave Noguer the rights and distribution over Mexico, Central America, and all of South America, except Brazil. Indeed, Noguer immediately published two editions in Mexico (15,000 copies in 1958) in November (the copyright page says October for the first edition but that’s misleading). On November 26 , in La Vanguardia Española (p. 19), Noguer justified the late launching of the book in Spain (i.e. with the third edition) on account of the heavy demand in Latin America. The person who was key to the publication of the Zhivago at Noguer was José Pardo, who informed Feltrinelli about the success of the book on February 10, 1959. The book had been published just after the Nobel Prize award. In two months, that is until the close of 1958, it had sold 63,000 copies (including the 15,000 published in Mexico). In 1958 there were eight editions (printings). By February 10, two more printings had been published with one more in the making (the eleventh). The translation was the work of Fernando Gutierrez. This translation, carried out from the Italian edition, was thus the only licensed one and as such it was the only one that could be sold from Mexico to Argentina.

So much for the authorized Spanish edition. But soon after the Nobel Prize six different pirate editions were being prepared and five of them actually appeared, in addition to a digest of the novel. It is now quite difficult to list them in chronological order as we have scant information, for obvious reasons, as to when exactly the editions were prepared and when they exactly came out. Of the six pirate editions, one came out in Mexico, two in Uruguay and two in Argentina. A third pirate edition in Argentina was stopped successfully by Feltrinelli’s lawyer Tesone. In this post I will deal with Mexico and Uruguay.

Mexico. The pirate edition that came out in Mexico was published by “Ediciones Capricornio”and was titled “El Doctor Yivago”.


El Doctor Yivago, Capricornio, Mexico, 1958

This edition is now quite difficult to find. It has 537 pages and was translated by Vladimir Koslov y Jorge Diez Cardoso. This translation was carried out on the English translation published by Collins (which is different from the Pantheon translation, itself a revised translation of the Collins one). It is easy to confirm this by looking at the list of main characters of the novel (taken straight out of the Collins edition), the table of content (which translates the title of Chapter 11 as “La hermandad del bosque” (Forest brotherhood) as opposed to “la milicia” or “el ejercito” as in the Italian and French versions), and the very first page of the translation. That the translation is the Collins one and not the revised Pantheon one is shown by the fact that the very first line of translation gives the hymn as “Memoria Eterna”: the British translation has “Eternal Memory” whereas the American one changed it to “Rest Eternal”. The French uses “chant funèbre” and although the Italian translation has “Memoria Eterna” it misses a whole sentence later in the page that is contained in this translation (and the British text). In any case the syntactic analysis of the first page of translation shows unequivocally that the Collins translations was the source.


F. Zendejas, La Pasión de Pasternak, LibroMex, Mexico, 1958

A brief mention should also be made of a book that contained fragments of Doctor Zhivago (also spelled ‘Doctor Yivago’), also without Feltrinelli’s permission, namely Zendejas’ La Pasión de Pasternak (1958).

The book contains, in addition to two essays on Pasternak by Francisco Zendejas and Victor Alba, respectively, two prose fragments (which had already appeared in the literary supplement Mexico en la Cultura of November 9, 1958) and eight poems of the Zhivago cycle translated from English. The book contains some beautiful drawings by Vlady, i.e. Victor Serge’s son, who had settled in Mexico with his father in 1941 (On Vlady see Jean-Guy Rens, Vlady. De la Revolución al renacimiento, Sigli XXI Editores, México, 2005). It was published on November 22, 1958.

Uruguay. Moving now to Uruguay, we have two editions. The first by Editorial Minerva was translated by Vicente Oliva. It has 542 pages.


El doctor Zhivago, Editorial Minerva, Montevideo, 1958

It came out in at least two editions (the second one of which was printed on December 10, 1958) but both of them after the Nobel Prize.

The other edition was printed by Ediciones Ciceron and came out in 1959 (589 pp.). The translation was by Juan Manuel Alfieri.

Both editions were made from the Italian translation, as it is soon revealed by the omission of a line of prayer in both translations (this omission is found in Zveteremich’s translation and it was an obvious oversight since the original Russian typescript has it and it is in fact found in both the French and the English translations). Incidentally, the Italian translation made by Pietro Zveteremich (see Mancosu, 2013, pp.29-34) was modified in the course of the years (see Iannello 2009).


El Doctor Yivago, Ediciones Ciceron, Montevideo, 1959

Despite being pirate editions they both claim copyright in the first pages of the book. In the next post I will discuss the pirate editions published in Argentina. Unlike those discussed so far, the Argentinian situation was to create some interesting troubles for Feltrinelli and Pasternak.




Zhivago in Mexico and South America

Feltrinelli, Pasternak, and the contract on Doctor Zhivago.

In my book “Inside the Zhivago Storm. The editorial adventures of Pasternak’s masterpiece” (Feltrinelli, Milan, 2013) and in Mancosu (2015), I have devoted a great deal of attention to the history of the Russian pirate editions in the West (Pasternak 1958h, Pasternak 1959d, Pasternak 1964). The interest of the topic is twofold, for it tells an interesting story about the role of the CIA in the publication of the Russian text and on Feltrinelli’s peculiar position.

Concerning the first aspect, let me recall that the first edition of the Russian text (Pasternak 1958h) came out in an edition financed by the CIA that was printed in The Hague (by the publisher Mouton) and distributed at the World Fair in Brussels in September 1958. In Mancosu 2013 (see chapter 2), I was able to show that this very edition is also the source of another pirate edition in the making, namely that prepared in the summer 1958 by the University of Michigan Press. The evidence for this claim comes from many sources but the smoking gun is provided by the existence of the galley proofs prepared by the University of Michigan Press that are now to be found in the Edmund Wilson archive at Yale University.

The other source of interest in the early pirated editions of the Russian Zhivago concerns the role of Feltrinelli, the publisher who had signed a contract with Pasternak for publication of the Zhivago in Italian and other translations, and who claimed the rights for the Russian edition in the West. Indeed, as Mancosu 2013 shows, whereas Feltrinelli’s publication of the Italian text –the first worldwide publication of Zhivago– in November 1957, put him at the center of attention as an anti-censorship hero, his early hesitation concerning the publication of the Russian Zhivago was used, by several forces unsympathetic to his leftist leanings, to attack him as trying to censor the Zhivago. The accusations came, among other sources, from various anti-Bolshevic organizations, such as the NTS (National Alliance of Russian Solidarists), and from The University of Michigan Press. While the publication of the Mouton edition was completely unexpected, Feltrinelli was able to block the projected Michigan edition by reaching an agreement with Michigan so that the edition would appear under his license.

Feltrinelli’s dealings with Mouton and The University of Michigan Press show a recurrent theme in Feltrinelli’s approach to defending his copyright for the Zhivago, namely threaten legal action but then reach a compromise before a court trial was necessary. The reasons for Feltrinelli’s behavior are to be found in the peculiar situation concerning the signed agreement between Pasternak and Feltrinelli. Pasternak had signed a contract with Feltrinelli on January 30, 1956 (for a photographic reproduction of the signed contract see Mancosu 2013, pp. 206-207). The contract concerned exclusively the translation into Italian and other foreign languages. When the contract was signed, it was expected that the Russian text would have appeared in the USSR and thus no special mention was made of the Russian text. When in 1957 it became clear that the Zhivago would not appear in Russian, Feltrinelli was left in a peculiar position. The contract did not explicitly give him rights for the Russian text, yet the contemporary legislation on copyright in the West protected his rights to the text in whatever form (thus, also in the original Russian, or any other adaptation for motion pictures, radio, television, theater etc.). Thus, he could block anyone else outside the USSR (provided the country involved recognized the Bern and Geneva legislation on copyright) from publishing the Russian text. This is what he did from November 1957 to March 1958, until he decided that he would make a Russian edition himself. But he paid dearly for his first period of hesitation, for the CIA began its publication project already in early spring 1958 and his hesitation, coupled with his leftist leanings, were exploited to associate him with the Soviet as if he were aiding the Soviets to censor the Zhivago (at least in the Russian language). The other complication with Pasternak’s contract was more important. Pasternak was a Soviet citizen and since the late 1920s it had been unconceivable for a Soviet author to publish abroad without first publishing in the USSR (which meant receiving approval for publication by the political/literary forces controlling the literary activity in the USSR). Signing a contract with a foreign publisher was an act of defiance. Even worse, receiving foreign royalties would have been damning for someone like Pasternak who had been attacked since the 1930s as bourgeois, idealistic, and cosmopolitan. For this reason, the contract with Pasternak could not be shown and this affected Feltrinelli’s approach to the defense of his copyright in the Western world. As I mentioned, he was able to reach a compromise with Mouton and the University of Michigan Press without having to show his contract and without entering protracted legal confrontation. But this was before the Nobel Prize award in October 1958.

After the Nobel Prize, the interest on Pasternak became massive. The first negotiations for a motion picture of the Zhivago, in October/November 1958, were abandoned by Feltrinelli exactly because he would have had to display the contract (and provide further contractual evidence concerning his rights to motion pictures, which were not included in the contract; see Mancosu 2013, pp. 294-298).

The pirates of the Russian text were driven by ideological motivation and the editions in question were not done for profit. Once Pasternak got the Nobel Prize, financial gains motivated different publishers around the world to come out with editions that were not licensed by Feltrinelli. Thus, Feltrinelli had to defend his copyright (and Pasternak’s interests) through legal action in many different parts of the world. At his side was the lawyer Antonio Tesone, who was in charge of the complex legal negotiations involved in protecting the copyright. The Feltrinelli archives in Milan contain many documents witnessing the legal battles that Tesone had to wage against the Russian pirate editions and against pirate editions in, among others countries, Greece, Turkey, and South America.

In this and the next two posts, I would like to tell the story of the editions in Portuguese and Spanish, especially the pirate ones made in Mexico and South America, for the story offers a telling insight into the delicate balance between the battle for the copyright and Feltrinelli’s principle that the contract with Pasternak was not to be shown, in order to protect the latter from retaliation in his own country. In addition, this will allow me to present in detail the different Portuguese and Spanish editions of the Zhivago that appeared in Mexico and South America between late 1958 and 1959. These editions have never been studied in detail and some of them are now very difficult to find. These posts extend the treatment of the pirate editions in South America given in Mancosu (2015). The bibliography, credits, and acknowledgements will be given at the end of the third post

The Portuguese editions

In November 1957, Feltrinelli offered to the German agent Ernst Geisenheyner the task of selling the rights for the Lusophone area (Geisenheyner was already in charge of selling the German translation rights and also dealt with Dutch). Despite competing interest from two Portuguese publishers, Editoria Ulissia in Lisbon (request made on February 3, 1958) and Editora Livros do Brazil (request made on July 23, 1958), the rights were sold to Livraria Itatiaia in Belo Horizonte (for Brazil) and to Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon (for Portugal).

On March 4, 1958, Geisenheyner wrote to Feltrinelli:

Bezüglich des portugiesischen Sprachraumes verhandle ich mit einem großen Verlag in Lissabon und einen Verlag in Brasilien. Ich hoffe, daß es bei diesem beiden Verlagen in absehbarer Zeit ebenfalls zu Abschlüssen kommt. Allerdings glaube ich, daß wir hier keine allzu hohen Vorschüsse herausholen können, da es sich um ein relative kleines und was den Buchverkauf betrifft nicht sehr ergiebiges Sprachgebiet handelt. (Fondo Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, Milan, dossier “Geysenheyner”)

Itatiaia, ­ a publishing house founded in 1953 by the brothers Pedro Paulo and Edison Moreira, published a first edition in 1958, after the Nobel Prize, and a second one in early 1959 (and several other after that). Since the negotiations with Itatiaia were still pending on September 16, 1958 (letter from Geisenheyner to Feltrinelli), and a signed contract from Itatiaia arrived only on October 2, 1958, it is quite possible that the translation into Portuguese had already begun by the time the contract was signed. Indeed, it is interesting that the first edition does not have in the copyright page any reference to Feltrinelli whereas the second edition does. Perhaps the agreement with Feltrinelli arrived too late for mention of the copyright in the first edition of the book. That an edition had been in the making before the agreement with Feltrinelli is also confirmed by two more details. First, Geisenheyner informed Feltrinelli that the negotiations with Itatiaia had been complicated and involved three agents. Second, it is virtually impossible that a translation could have been done in less than two months. It is however the case that the translation was done very fast. The reason is that the book was translated from the French version that appeared only in July 1958. The translation was the work of Oscar Mendez and Milton Amado. The poems were translated by Heitor Martins.

000 copy

O Doutor Jivago, 1958, Editora Itatiaia, Belo Horizonte, first edition.

How the interest of Itatiaia for the book originated is described in a touching report of the excitement surrounding the sale of Doctor Zhivago in Brazil. (click here)

Here is the relevant passage, which shows how wrong Geisenheyner had been in saying to Feltrinelli that Brazil was after all a relatively small market.

A história da Livraria Itatiaia liga-se à rua da Bahia graças a uma outra história: a do romance Doutor Jivago, do russo Boris Pasternak. O livro, que começou a ser escrito entre 1910 e 1920 [[this is incorrect]], foi concluído apenas em 1956, dois anos após os irmãos Moreira [[Pedro Paulo Moreira, publisher of Doctor Zhivago in Brazil; Edison Moreira, Brazilian poet, brother and business partner of Pedro Paulo]]… Com a sua publicação impedida pelo governo soviético, Doutor Jivago cruzou sorrateiramente as fronteiras da Cortina de Ferro para ser publicado na Itália, em 1957. Um ano depois, Oscar Mendes, um dos intelectuais que então compunham o time de tradutores da Itatiaia, teve acesso à edição francesa do Jivago, cedida a ele por Marie-Louise Bataille, uma das agentes literárias francesas que è época abasteciam Edison e Pedro Paulo. O tradutor leu e disse aos Moreira: “Achei muito interessante! Se quiserem publicar, traduzo com gosto!”

Milton Amado e Heitor Martins juntaram-se a Oscar Mendes e a tarefa tradutória começou. Foi quando Pasternak recebeu o prêmio Nobel da Academia Sueca. O evento por si só já alavanca as vendas de qualquer livro, mas, neste caso, o episódio ganha dimensão ainda maior com a recusa de Pasternak em receber a láurea a saída da União Soviética poderia implicar a perda de sua cidadania, o que o escritor preferiu evitar, declinando do convite para ir à Suécia. Pedro Paulo logo entendeu a importância da publicação de uma edição em português. Com o rebuliço em torno do Jivago, a Itatiaia recebeu 50 mil pedidos adiantados. Pedro Paulo, que então estabelecera uma tiragem de 75 mil, achou por bem dobrá-la: “Era uma loucura! À medida que as traduções iam ficando prontas, colocava-as num avião que aluguei e corria para São Paulo, onde as impressões eram feitas”, conta o editor. Na noite de lançamento, ele chegou em cima da hora, trazendo, no avião, cerca de 20 mil volumes: a última leva.

Leny Moreira, mulher de Pedro Paulo, lembra que a noite de lançamento foi “um negócio de doido”: “Era tanta gente na porta da livraria, que precisamos chamar a polícia. Fizeram um cordão de isolamento, organizando a fila enorme que entrava livraria adentro”. Cada exemplar do romance de Pasternak custava 250 cruzeiros. Pedro Paulo estima a venda de inacreditáveis 10 mil exemplares em uma só noite. Além da venda dos livros, a Itatiaia contou com a publicação do romance em formato folhetinesco nos jornais Última Hora e Estado de São Paulo. Nas idas à capital paulista para imprimir o livro, Pedro Paulo conheceu Samuel Wainer, que encantou-se com o livro; e o editor ainda encontrava tempo para dançar com Danuza Leão, mulher do jornalista, vestida provocantemente de vermelho, “espalhando brasa” pelos salões paulistanos.
Com os ganhos que o Doutor Jivago trouxe, a mudança para um espaço maior, na rua da Bahia, não tardou. No fim de 1958, Pedro Paulo celebrou o feliz transcorrer do ano, dedicando um volume do romance russo a Leny. No frontispício, lê-se: “Para Leny, mais uma vitória nossa. Bhte, Natal de 1958″.

In a letter from Tesone to Feltrinelli, dated December 31, 1958, there is talk of a pirate edition in Brazil published by COPAC. Tesone complained that they could not start legal action because they could not locate the publisher. It is quite likely that the book in question was actually a commentary on the Zhivago affair written by Murillo Araújo and published by the editorial COPAC of Rio de Janeiro. The book was titled “Para Comprendeer ‘O doutor Jivago’” with at the bottom of the page “Boris Pasternak. Premio Nobel de Literatura-1958. COPAC”. However, the difference in size of the characters on the title page gave the following visual impression: “O doutor Jivago, Boris Pasternak, COPAC”.

Portuguese COPAC copy

Para Comprender “O doutor Jivago”, COPAC, Rio de Janeiro, 1958


This could have fooled many readers into thinking that the book contained large parts of Doctor Zhivago while in effect it only contained translations of a few of the Zhivago poems and a long commentary on the Zhivago affair. This book, which was published at the end of 1958, also mentions the forthcoming translation by Itatiaia (p. 89) and makes no mention of a competing translation by COPAC. It thus seems that Tesone and Feltrinelli had been misinformed as to the exact nature of the COPAC book (although the poems could still not be published without Feltrinelli’s permission).

A second point of interest concerning the Portuguese editions is that they were not done on the Russian original but rather from the French. It had been Geisenheyner who had persuaded Feltrinelli, in a letter dated October 2, 1958, to ask permission from Collins and Gallimard so that the Portuguese translation could be done from the English or the French.

SAM_3290 copy

O Doutor Jivago, Livraria Bertrand, Lisboa, 1960, first edition.

He alleged that this was as a consequence of a lack of qualified translators from Russian into Portuguese, which seems hardly believable. It is more probable that the Brazilian publisher had already started the translation from the French and this was a way to speed up the publication process. Feltrinelli did in fact ask Collins for permission on October 4 and received it in a letter dated October 8. The Itatiaia translation was carried out from the French.

The Livraria Bertrand edition published in Lisbon does not have a date but it came out in 1960.

The translator of the work was Augusto Abelaria and the poems were translated by David Mourao Ferreira. The book contained a preface by Aquilino Ribeiro.

Overall, the Lusophone area did not give too many problems when it came to pirate editions (there was a pirate edition of the Autobiography in Portugal in 1959 but Tesone and Feltrinelli did not pursue it). The situation was dramatically different with translations into Spanish. I will recount the history of the editions in Spanish in the next two posts.


Susana Soca and Boris Pasternak

At the end of October 1956, Pasternak received a letter from a stranger. The writer was Susana Soca (1906-1959), a Uruguayan poetess. She told Pasternak that she had tried to phone him from Moscow but that she had failed to reach him.


Susana Soca (1906-1959)

Between 1947 and 1948 Soca edited Les Cahiers de la Licorne in Paris and then from 1953 to 1959 the Entregas de la Licorne in Montevideo. Soca is a fascinating personality and it is not surprising that several biographical studies (by Loustaunau, Litvan, and others) and two book length biographies of Soca have been published (Alvarez 2001, 2007, and Amengual 2012). Both biographies devote much attention to the connection Soca-Pasternak.

I have recently found new documents that add to our knowledge of Soca’s connection to Pasternak and his family and I would like to present these new documents in this post.

My attention to Soca is also instrumental in clarifying the relationship between Pasternak, Hélène Peltier, and the French publishing world. This is a topic that has consequences for claims made about Soca’s involvement, or lack thereof, with Doctor Zhivago but


Juan Álvarez Márquez, Más allá del ruego: vida de Susana Soca (2007)

I will not discuss that part of the story in this post. The letter from Susana Soca to Pasternak has been partially translated into Spanish (Amengual 2012, p. 353, with photograph of the original letter in the appendix; however, the name of Robin was not correctly identified) but has not been published in its original French or in English translation. From the letterhead it can be inferred that the letter was written at the National Hotel in Moscow (The letterhead also displays the Intourist logo). The letter is dated Sunday 21 [October 1956].

Sunday, the 21st


I am leaving this instant for Vienna after calling you without success at the number that the young Spanish language specialist at the Russian writers association – it is my native tongue, (I am from Uruguay, in South America) – gave me. She incidentally told me that you would not be here until tonight.

I am quite struck at the thought of having nearly met you. You were the only person I wished to see in Moscow, where I came too fast as I am now going back to Montevideo. I write as well and your poetry is so important to me, at a time when poetry counts for so little in the world that it can and must be of importance to those who live by its side only when it is admirable.


Claudia Amengual, Rara Avis. Vida y obra de Susana Soca (2012)

Robin [Armand Robin], your translator had told me a lot about you. And what I would like to ask from you is 2 or 3 poems, untranslated if possible, for the journal I am editing. I am not familiar enough with Russian to dare doing it myself, without a poet of your language. Could you let me know what needs to be done? I was not able to find your poems.

Susana Soca

The young lady at the writers’ association has my address and I am sending her the journal for you. (Courtesy of Elena Vladimirovna Pasternak and Petr Pasternak, Moscow; original in French)

Although the letter was written on October 21, Soca probably entrusted it to someone else

(given that she was leaving the morning after) and the letter was sent after a few days, for the envelope is stamped October 25 on the recto side and October 26 on the verso side. Upon receiving this letter, Pasternak did not even know the name of the journal that Soca edited but by November 23 (when he wrote to his sister Lydia, see below) he was familiar with it, most probably because Soca had sent him the promised copy and it had reached him. As we shall see, Pasternak was quite flattered by Soca’s letter.

The first mention of Soca to his sister Lydia is contained in a letter by Pasternak written on November 23, 1956:

Although I will write about this to professor Berlin in English for practice, but you should know about my request as well. When I am asked for anything for magazines beyond the border, I think the most important thing is that same introduction [Autobiography, aka Autobiographical sketch] which you’ve read. Berlin took it of his own good will, I believe he had the desire to translate the essay and place it somewhere. I repeated many times that that was possible and desirable. But perhaps, B. and his friends don’t have time, or have lost the desire, or they have come across another obstacle. That is another issue. In any case, the request is the following: In Moscow, a publisher of an art magazine, the “Unicorn” from South America, sought to meet me, but due to the brevity of her stay (she left quickly), was unable to achieve this. Her letter is so fervent and brash, that I would like to send her this essay for the magazine. She does not know Russian. If the English or French translation of this essay (the autobiographical essay) is ready or is reaching its completion, I will ask B.[erlin] or GM [Katkov] to send a copy of the translation to her address: Señora Susana Soca, 824 San José, Montevideo, Uruguay. At the worst, also send her the original manuscript, if it is not being translated – it is more likely to arrive from you. (Pasternak 2004, p. 790; original in Russian)

(Incidentally, the sentence ‘Она не знает по русски’, ‘she does not know Russian’, was dropped by mistake from the transcription of the letter in the Russian editions of Pasternak’s family letters. I checked the original which is in the Pasternak Family Papers at Hoover Institution Library and Archives at Stanford.)


Logo of Entregas de la Licorne

By then, Pasternak had received a copy of Entregas de la Licorne, the literary journal edited by Susana Soca.

The day after he wrote to Berlin instructing him to send Soca the original of the autobiographical essay:

Now would you not give away half a kingdom, should a foreign lady write you. Vous étiez la seule personne que je désirais voir à Moscou … Votre poésie est pour moi tellement importante à un moment où la poésie ne peut et ne doit compter dans le monde que quand elle est admirable … etc, etc ….

Take the manuscript of my autobiographical preface (it lies at Oxford useless to you) and send it to:

Senora Susana Soca

824 San José Montevideo Uruguay

Do it, I pray you. (Pasternak to Berlin November 24, 1956; The Isaiah Berlin Literary Trust)

While it is hard to know when exactly Pasternak replied to Soca, I conjecture that he had already done so by November 4 and without any doubt before November 14. Indeed, in a letter to his sisters written on November 4, Pasternak said:

There have been delegations here from the West, and some of them suggested that the autobiographical sketch should be suitable for a journal such as Encounter, or some French equivalent. Why hasn’t that happened? Has the material been rejected as insufficiently interesting? If the autobiographical sketch, or selected extracts from it, were to be published in the West, that would greatly assist the projects I’ve just described, which I’ve been intentionally holding up until the editors have seen the autobiography. G.M. [Katkov] and his friend mustn’t be surprised if they get requests for copies of it from unexpected parts of the world such as Bulgaria or Uruguay or Argentina. (Pasternak 2010, p. 385)

The mention of Uruguay is surely not accidental. Katkov’s friend is obviously Isaiah Berlin. Already on November 15, Soca wrote a telegram to Pasternak from Paris saying “Reçu textes Ecrirai de Montevideo Merci pour tout Susana Soca”. It is obvious that Pasternak had replied to her and in all likelihood had sent the two poems that she ended up publishing (“Without title” and “In the hospital”) in the August 1957 issue of Entregas de la Licorne. Indeed, as it transpires from the correspondence between Lydia Pasternak and Susana Soca (see below), Pasternak seems to have sent to Soca several poems, perhaps as many as ten. I exclude he had sent at this stage the first part of the Autobiography which was also published in the same issue of Entregas de la Licorne. If he had done so there would have been no need to ask Lydia and Berlin, as late as November 23, to send the Autobiography to Soca. The issue was certainly discussed in Oxford where the debate about whether to publish anything by Boris (including the Autobiography) at the moment was occupying Maurice Bowra, George Katkov, Lydia and Josephine Pasternak, and Isaiah Berlin. Berlin was adamant that it was better to wait. A passage from Lydia’s diary from December 7, 1956, informs us that Berlin was also against publication in Uruguay:

Berlin called – talked for a long time, he’s even against printing in Uruguay. (Lydia Pasternak’s diary, December 7, 1956; Pasternak Family Papers, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford)

Since the only address Soca had given Pasternak was a Montevideo address, it appears that Pasternak sent the letter to Montevideo. That Pasternak’s letter was sent to Montevideo is also confirmed by a footnote added to the third and last installment (the first had appeared in August 1957, issues 9-10, pp. 19-30  and the second in 1958, issue 11, pp. 75-80) of Pasternak’s excerpts from the Autobiography, which were published in Entregas de La Licorne, 12, 1959 (Boris Pasternak: Memorias. Los años del novecientos, pp. 9-16).

Regrettably, Pasternak’s first (and perhaps only) letter to Soca can no longer be located. However, Susana Soca gave a rather lengthy excerpt of the letter in a piece she published in August 1957 in Entregas de la Licorne.


Susana Soca. Photo by Gisèle Freund

The relevant passage is the following:

But this is nothing at all. They are no more than trifles. I have the feeling that, just in front of our eyes, a completely new era is being born and that it will develop every day without our noticing it. It is new for the tasks it will have to face as well as for the requirements of the heart and of human dignity; it develops silently and without doubt it will never be officially inaugurated. Some unrelated poems and of a specific character are an insufficient measure for meditation on such vast, such complex and novel things. Only prose and philosophy legitimate an attempt in this direction. It is for this reason that the best I have accomplished in my life, up to this point, is the novel Doctor Zhivago… I blush when I realize that, on account of a rather sad set of events, I have gained a truly excessive reputation, based on my early writings, while my most recent work, whose significance is altogether different, are ignored (especially in the area of the novel). (Excerpt from a letter from Pasternak to Sosa, first published in Spanish in Entregas de la Licorne 1957, p. 9; and then in original French in Marcha, 1959, p. 20)

In a footnote Soca explicitly says that the above passage is from Pasternak’s reply to her first letter. It is quite obvious that Pasternak’s letter contained more and in my forthcoming book (see acknowledgements) I reconstruct the other parts of the letter which, as I have mentioned, regarded Peltier’s role in negotiations between the French publishers and Pasternak. I will not pursue this here.

Part of the correspondence between Lydia Pasternak Slater and Susana Soca is preserved in the Pasternak Family Papers at Hoover Institution Library and Archives. The early part of the correspondence between Lydia Pasternak and Susana Soca (and her secretary and Russian teacher Nadia Verbina) and further correspondence between Verbina and Pasternak was not available to Álvarez Márquez and Amengual when they wrote their biographies of Soca. For this reason, I will add here some new information and provide translations of the relevant documents.

The first contact between Lydia Pasternak and Susana Soca seems to have been established by Lydia who, not knowing which languages Soca mastered and having been told by Boris that Soca did not know Russian (see letter from Boris to Lydia cited above), wrote in French in late December 1956.


Susana Soca and her portrait by Pablo Picasso (Photo by André Ostier, Paris 1943)

She told Soca that she and her sister Josephine differed from her brother’s opinion about the advisability of publishing something in translation that had not yet been published in Russian. She also tried to put Soca in contact with her long time friend, Anatol (Tolya) Saderman, who had previously lived in Montevideo and was now a renowned photographer in Buenos Aires. Lydia’s idea was that Saderman could perhaps assist with the translation of her brother’s texts into Spanish. Here is the draft of Lydia Pasternak’ s letter to Susana Soca sent soon after Christmas 1956 and before the new year:

Dear Madam,

Merry Christmas (too late!) and happy new year!

Please forgive me for my horrible French – I use it only because I know that you don’t understand Russian and I don’t know if you know English. My brother has asked me to send you his article ?; I will do so in a few days when I hope to receive the copies but they are in Russian. Would it be possible for you to have them translated or would you prefer that I arrange for them to be translated first? I have a very good Russian friend, a bit of an amateur poet, who has lived for many years in Montevideo (perhaps you know him? his name is Anatole Saderman, a photographer-artist) and for this reason he could probably translate the article without problem (if he has time!) I will send him a copy and ask him if he wants to do it. Perhaps you would be able to communicate with him directly? His address now is A. Saderman Lavalle Buenos Aires, Argentina

My brother is of a different opinion but my sister and I we are very worried not to have published it before it has appeared in Russia prefer that this article is not published abroad before it is published in Russia, this could be dangerous.

All the very best

I wish you, dear madam, a happy new year, joyful and peaceful. Lydia Pasternak Slater (Pasternak Family Papers, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford, Box 100, folder “Soca”; original in French)

A reply written in Russian by Susana Soca’s secretary, Nadia Verbina, on January 14, 1957 reads:

Montevideo 14. I-1957.

Dearest Madame Slater!

I am responding upon Miss Soca’s request. Miss Soca asks to tell you that she perfectly understands, reads, and speaks Russian, but writes with difficulty, therefore I am the one responding. She also perfectly knows English, German, and French, so that in the future you could write to her in whichever of these 4 or 5 languages. Right now Miss Soca with my help is translating your brother’s poems and will try to print them in the next issue of her magazine. When you send your brother’s other books, Miss Soca will immediately try to translate and print all that will be possible.

Greetings, Nadezhda Verbina.

The letter clarifies some uncertainty in the literature as to whether Verbina’s connection to Lydia Pasternak Slater predates the contact between Pasternak and Soca. It is obvious from the above exchange that Verbina had no contact with Lydia before this exchange. As it transpires from Lydia’s diary, the first half of the Autobiography was sent by Lydia to Soca on February 27, 1957:

“looked through Borya’s photocopy, sorted the first part, ending with Tolstoy’s death, gathered all the business papers, went […] to the bank […] put Borya’s [[documents]] in the big purchased envelope […] went finally (intended since the morning) to the post office, sent Soca half of Borya’s manuscript (regist, airmail), and also a pink slip so as to know.” (Pasternak Family Papers, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford).

Replies by Soca (in French) and Verbina (in Russian) followed on 24 and 25 April 1957 announcing that the translator for the Autobiography had been found (the translator’s name is not mentioned but his name was Gregorio Hintz). Here is the letter by Soca:


Armand Robin (1912-1961), translator of Pasternak (Poèmes de Boris Pasternak, 1946)

Dear Madam,

I received with joy your brother’s admirable essay [récit, as in Autobiographical Essay]. We are trying to have it translated here at the moment and Mme Verbina and I are working on the translation. A part of the poems is here. But I was counting on Armand Robin, translator of your brother’s poems into French, for a more elegant job. Robin has a lot of talent but he is very pessimistic and rather bizarre. He claims, against all evidence, that I have not left with him the six poems that he had chosen in Paris. I am rather intrigued by this attitude. I attribute it to a political reason. At this moment he his an anarchist and furiously anti-soviet. I wonder whether this is not better for your brother in a certain sense. But we must recover the poems. I beg you to write personally to Mr. Robin. As I do not have the address I give you the address of an Uruguayan writer who his the middle man in my relation to Robin, a young poet in the style of the poet Jules Supervielle and who admires your brother very much. I hope to meet you during my next trip and I look forward to your opinion on the matter of Robin’s attitude once you have received his response.

paseyro crop

Ricardo Paseyro (1925-2009)

With very best wishes, Susana Soca

P.S. The address is Mr Ricardo Paseyro. Pour Mr Armand Robin 12 rue Massenet XVI Paris (Pasternak Family Papers, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford, box 100, folder 5; original in French).

Ricardo Paseyro is often mentioned in Alvarez 2001, 2007 and Amengual 2012. He was a poet and a diplomat and had married the daughter of Jules Supervielle (see Paseyro 2007 for his memoirs). It is regrettable that we don’t have Lydia’s letter which accompanied the sending of the Autobiography, for it would have clarified the issue concerning Robin and the poems (incidentally, there is also no extant correspondence between Lydia Pasternak and Robin or Paseyro among Lydia’s papers and correspondence). Nadia Verbina also added a letter:

Montevideo 24. IV 1957

Dearest Miss Slater. I am adding a few lines to Madame Soca’s letter. All this time we attempted to find a translator (who knows Russian and Spanish perfectly), but we still haven’t been able to come across anyone appropriate. We are translating, when possible, (excerpts) from the your brother’s autobiography. Madame Soca is hoping to publish at least excerpts in her magazine.

Regarding the poems, we still haven’t received anything from Paris. When you will be writing to Armand Robin, (he has the 5 best poems), also write to Mr. Paseyro (he really loves your brother’s poems), and we hope that he will be able to find out everything that interests us from Mr. Robin.

My most sincere and heartfelt greetings, N. Verbina [[signature]] (Pasternak Family Papers, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford, box 100, folder 5; original in Russian).

Verbina also wrote a follow up letter on the following day:

 Montevideo 25. IV 57

Dearest Madame Slater!

Yesterday we sent your letter and also found a translator. Madame Soca asks me to tell you that she is sincerely happy and hopes to soon print your brother’s novel.

Greetings, N. Verbina [[signature]] (Pasternak Family Papers, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford, box 100, folder 5; original in Russian).

By “novel” here Verbina meant the Autobiographical Essay, as it is clear from the previous letter.

We know from her diary that Lydia replied on May 24, 1957 but this letter is not extant (Soca’s Nachlaß vanished after her untimely death in January 1959).

Let me conclude with a few more documents. On August 7, 1957, Pasternak mentions Soca to Lydia again:

“Are you familiar with Soca personally, that is, have you seen her? She was here at some point, wanted to meet me, but didn’t have time, and wrote to me while leaving. She really interests me.” (Pasternak 2004b, p. 794)

On the same day Boris also wrote to Soca:

Dear friend,

I still preserve a vivid remembrance of you, of your admirable considerations, and of the cramped characters in your letter, despite the fact that we did not manage to meet personally. How are you? Since the middle of March I have been ill, I have been terribly ill for four months and I did not think I would be able to be again the person I once was. But, thank God, since not long I am miraculously the same person I was.

During this time and earlier, in Winter, our literary situation changed. It is hopeless to think that my novel will appear (“Doctor Zhivago”) nor will my book of poems for which I had already written the preface.

For this reason I would prefer if no one concerned himself about what they do with me here and one should not postpone my publications abroad on account of a worry concerning me which is erroneous and undesirable. (…) Have you read in “Esprit” [March 1957] the lovely essay by Aucouturier and the poems he wonderfully translated in a surprisingly rhymed version? If I have the right to judge the perfection of this translation from my Russian point of view, I would say that it is the acme of poetical richness and sonority.

If you would like to make me happy please write me a few lines. As soon as I have confirmation that you received my letter, I will send you a few new texts.

Your unconditional admirer,

Boris Pasternak

The letter is translated into Spanish in Álvarez Márquez (2007, pp. 134-135) without indication of source. My translation into English is from the Spanish text published there. Álvarez Márquez could unfortunately no longer find a copy of the original letter. Petr and Elena Vladimirovna Pasternak have informed me that the original of this letter is kept at RGALI in Moscow. It was part of the Ivinskaya papers and it appears not to have been sent to Soca. Thus, it seems that there was altogether only one letter that Pasternak sent to Soca. Indeed, this also seems confirmed by the last document I would like to present, namely Verbina’s letter to Pasternak dated October 6, 1957:

Montevideo 6 10-1957.

Most esteemed Boris Leonidovich!

On September 25 [of this year], during the lecture read by Madame Susana Soca at the Soviet-Uruguay Institute, the Uruguayan public was acquainted with your biography, your quest, [and] poetry. The poems were translated by Susana Soca into Spanish. You can imagine the difficulty that the translation of poetry presents, but Susana Soca overcame this difficulty successfully. [[We]] Truly worked hard and with love.

Being in Moscow with Susana Soca, I was hoping to meet you, but fate decided otherwise. I am very, very sorry [[it didn’t work out]], but I do not lose hope in filling that blank during our next trip.

Susana Soca sent you via air mail the issue of “La Licorne” in which her lecture, poems translated by her, and your biography are printed. As soon as the second issue is released with the continuation, we will immediately send it to you.

<handwritten> The most heartfelt and sincere greetings and best wishes,

Nadezhda Verbina (S. Soca’s secretary) (Pasternak Papers, Moscow, Private archive owned by Elena Leonidovna Pasternak; original in Russian)

The lack of any acknowledgement of a letter written by Pasternak in August suggests that Pasternak never sent the second letter to Soca (or if he sent it, it had not arrived). Importantly, given that the topic of Soca’s knowledge of Russian has been discussed in the secondary literature,  we also obtain  confirmation that the poems were translated into Spanish by Soca (obviously with Verbina’s help; for the translated poems click here). The lecture in question must have been “Encuentro y desencuentro”Screen Capture entregas published as the first item in Entregas de la Licorne 9-10, 1957 (pp. 7-14). The continuation of the translation of the excerpt from the Autobiography was published in the 1958 and 1959 issues of Entregas de la Licorne. Verbina also mentions that she was with Soca in Moscow in October 1956 and that she regrets that they had been unable to meet. Nadia Verbina will come back on this issue also in a letter to Pasternak written in 1960.  In that letter she said  that although Pasternak does not know her, she was Susana Soca’s secretary and that they were together in Moscow when Susana Soca tried to get in touch with Pasternak “without managing to see him” (The 1960 letter is reproduced photographically in Amengual 2012).

There does not seem to have been much correspondence in 1958 involving Soca and the Pasternaks but on November 5, 1958, – that is immediately after the Nobel Prize Scandal in the USSR – Soca sent a telegram from Montevideo to Lydia Pasternak Slater:

Thinking anxiously about your brother and you stop wish to see you at end November stop will write = Susana Soca (Pasternak Family Papers, Hoover Institution Library and Archives, Stanford, box 100, folder 5; original in Russian).

Soca died in an airplane accident in Rio de Janeiro on January 8, 1959.


Susana Soca in Montevideo (approximately 1936)

She had just visited Lydia for the first time. Lydia wrote to Boris: “Susana also died, in an aircrash, on her return from her first visit with us. I simply cannot get over it and fear that you too will be struck terribly by these news. (Don’t mention it if you will reply to me, since J.<osephine> doesn’t yet know anything about her death.)” (Postcard from Lydia to Boris, dated January 25, 1959; original in Russian, courtesy of Elena Vladimirovna Pasternak and Petr Pasternak).

After Soca’s death, there was further correspondence between Lydia Pasternak, Nadia Verbina, and Boris Pasternak but since it has been already cited in Alvarez 2001, 2007 and Amengual 2012 I will stop here.

Acknowledgements: I am very grateful to Juan Álvarez Márquez for many interesting email and Skype conversations on Susana Soca and for having sent me useful documents and pictures in his possession. I am also very grateful to Elena Vladimirovna Pasternak and Petr Pasternak (Moscow) for permission to quote the 1959 postcard from Lydia Pasternak Slater to Boris, the Pasternak Trust (Oxford) for permission to use Lydia’s letter to Soca and excerpts from Lydia’s diaries (for which they hold the copyright), to Elena Leonidovna Pasternak (Moscow) for permission to use Verbina’s letter to Pasternak from October 1957, to the Isaiah Berlin Literary Trust for permission to quote the letter from Pasternak to Berlin, and to the Hoover Institution Library and Archives at Stanford  for permission to use Lydia’s diaries and the correspondence between Susana Soca, Nadia Verbina, and Lydia Pasternak Slater. Finally, last but not least, many thanks to Hoover Institution archivist Lora Soroka, to Hoover Institution deputy archivist Linda Bernard, and to the associate director of Hoover Institution Eric Wakin. The documents in original language will be published in a forthcoming book of mine to be published by Hoover Press in 2016. Parts of this post are excerpted from the forthcoming book.


See the useful page on Susana Soca in “Autores del Uruguay” (click here)

Álvarez Márquez, J., Susana Soca, esa desconocida, Linardi y Risso, Montevideo, 2001.

Álvarez Márquez, J., Más allá del ruego: vida de Susana Soca, Linardi y Risso, Montevideo, 2007.

Amengual, C., Rara Avis. Vida y obra de Susana Soca, Taurus, Montevideo, 2012

Entregas de la Licorne, volumes 9-10, Montevideo, 1957 [this issue contains Soca’s lecture on Pasternak, Soca’s translation of two poems by Pasternak, and the first part of the excerpts from Pasternak’s Autobiography]

Entregas de la Licorne, volume 11, Montevideo, 1958 [this issue contains the translations of the second part of the excerpts from Pasternak’s Autobiography]

Entregas de la Licorne, volume 12, Montevideo, 1959 [this issue contains the translations of the third and last part of the excerpts from Pasternak’s Autobiography]

Entregas de la Licorne, volume 16, Montevideo, 1961 [this issue contains many articles with remembrances of Susana Soca]

Paseyro, R., Toutes les circonstances sont aggravantes, Rocher, Monaco, 2007

Pasternak, B., Pis’ma k roditeliam i sestram 1907-1960, Moscow, 2004

Pasternak, B., Boris Pasternak. Family Correspondence 1921-1960, Hoover Institution Press, Stanford, 2010

Smugglers, Rebels, Pirates

Zivago nella tempestaThe past two months have been very active on the Zhivago front.

The Italian translation of Inside the Zhivago Storm came out on August 27 with a new introduction for the Italian reader.

Lengthy positive reviews have already appeared in “La Lettura” (August 23, 2015), a cultural insert of Il Corriere della Sera, and in Il Giornale (August 15, 2015). A radio interview with Paolo Mancosu and Serena Vitale led by Felice Cimatti for Fahrenheit (RAI 3) took place on September 21 and can be heard here.

In addition, Hoover Press, Stanford, published at the beginning of September the catalog of a book exhibit on Doctor Zhivago‘s first editions titled Smugglers, Rebels, Pirates. Itineraries in the publishing history of Doctor Zhivago. The catalog details the publication history of all the Russian editions in the West, the editions in languages beyond the Iron Curtain, and the South American editions. SmugglersThe book exhibit will be part of what might well turn out to be the most important conference on Pasternak in the 21st century (for the Hoover Institution announcement click here).

The conference, organized by Professor Lazar Fleishman, will take place at Stanford from September 28 to October 2.

The title of the conference is “Poetry and Politics in the Twentieth Century: Boris Pasternak, His Family, and His Novel Doctor Zhivago”.  For a detailed description click here.


Carlo Feltrinelli and Paolo Mancosu at the IIC in Paris

[Added 9/30/2015] My key-note address at the Pasternak conference was delivered on September 28, 2015, at Hoover Institution. The title of the talk was “Censorship and Freedom in the Cold War: Pasternak, Feltrinelli and the publication of Doctor Zhivago”. You can read about the event and see some pictures by clicking here.

[Added 12/20/2015]

The Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Paris organized on November 6 a presentation of the Italian translation of the book (Zivago nella Tempesta) with Carlo Feltrinelli, Paolo Mancosu, and Marina Valensise (direttrice dell’Istituto).