Boris Pasternak


Boris Leonidovich Pasternak

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1958

Born: 10 February 1890, Moscow, Russia

Died: 30 May 1960, Peredelkino, Russia

Residence at the time of the award: USSR (now Russia)

Prize motivation: “for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition”

Language: Russian

Boris Pasternak first accepted the award, but was later caused by the authorities of his country to decline the prize.

Prize share: 1/1


Boris Pasternak grew up in Moscow. His father was an artist and professor, his mother a concert pianist. Pasternak initially decided to become a composer, but eventually abandoned music to study philosophy in Germany. He later returned to Moscow, became an author, and in 1936 moved into his dacha in Peredelkino, southwest of Moscow. When it was announced that Boris Pasternak had been awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize, he was forced to decline it at the behest of Soviet authorities, who had banned his novel Doctor Zhivago. Pasternak was married with two sons.


Boris Pasternak emerged during the 1910s and 1920s as a poet with modernist leanings, publishing works like the poetry collection Sestra moya—zhizn (My Sister - Life). In the 1930s he adopted simpler, more direct language and a greater social focus. Pasternak's works also address the existential: nature, life, humanity, and love. This is true of his acclaimed work, Doctor Zhivago, which is set in the period from the socialist revolution of 1905 to World War II.

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