Pasternak illustrates Tolstoy

Posted on 9th June 2021 by simonbeattie

No, not Boris Pasternak, the author of Dr Zhivago. His father, Leonid, who was an artist. This is a copy of the edition of Resurrection, Tolstoy’s last major novel, printed and published in England, away from the Russian censor, in 1900. It is the first complete edition to feature Pasternak’s classic illustrations.

It was decided to publish Resurrection simultaneously in Russia, where the text had to be passed by the censor, and England, where it did not.  Both appeared in 1899: the censored version in instalments in the journal Niva, the uncensored version printed by Vladimir Chertkov, Tolstoy’s then exiled disciple and closest collaborator, in Purleigh in Essex.  Chertkov produced five editions in all.  In later editions, as here, the name of the publisher was changed to ‘A. Tchertkoff’ (Chertkov’s wife), and the printing itself, presumably a stereotype from Chertkov’s original formes, was executed in the East End of London by the Quaker firm of Headley Brothers, a cousin of whom, Joseph James Neave, had met Tolstoy in Russia during a missionary visit.  See Katya Rogatchevskaia, ‘Emigrantskie izdaniia v fondakh Britanskoi biblioteki’, Bibliografiia, No. 1 (2006), pp. 151–8.

The excitement felt by Leonid Pasternak when invited by Tolstoy to illustrate Resurrection knew no bounds.  ‘I hardly dared to believe this good fortune.  It can’t be!  Lev Nikolaevich!  Lev Nikolaevich himself inviting me to illustrate his new work!  Terrifying!  It took my breath away.  God help me!’ (Memoirs, tr. Jenny Bradshaw, 1982, p. 143).  The drawings were created in one six-week burst of inspiration—‘I can hardly believe that some of the scenes, and actually the best drawings, were executed within a matter of hours’ (op. cit., p. 157)—at both Moscow and Yasnaya Polyana, where Tolstoy commented on each of them before the final drawings were produced.  Such was their popularity that they became the most widely reproduced graphic work of the pre-Revolutionary period.  Pasternak wrote: ‘I need say nothing of the success of Resurrection and of the sensation produced by Tolstoy’s work.  But my own personal success surpassed all my expectations’ (op. cit., p. 161).

For more details of this book, please see my recent e-list.

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