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.