IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Boris Pasternak, Russian poetry, Russian History, Russian Revolution

Listed author(s):
  • Kevin M.F. Platt


    (University of Pennsylvania)

  • Konstantin Polivanov


    (National Research University Higher School of Economics)

Registered author(s):

    The relationship between the individual and historical processes was one of Boris Pasternak’s persistent and central concerns, from his earliest lyrics, to his experiments with long-form poems and prose at mid-career, to his late masterwork, the novel Doktor Zhivago (Doctor Zhivago). Pasternak’s oeuvre poses the questions of what the lyric poet can say about history, and how to say it. Among his earliest, most complex and perhaps least critically understood attempts to answer these questions is the 1920-23 poetic cycle “Bolezn'” (“Illness”). In particular, the third poem of this cycle, “Mozhet stat'sia tak, mozhet inache” (“It can happen like that, or other¬wise”), is among Pasternak’s most dense and enigmatic works. To our mind, it also contains the central keys to reading the cycle “Bolezn'” and to Pasternak’s earliest attempts to make lyric sense of historical experience. The present article is an attempt to read this poem, the cycle that contains it, and through this, the counterintuitive potential of the lyric mode as an instrument for historical thought. Drawing on an examination of the construction of the poem and its web of allusions to Russian and world literature, as well as to the contexts of Pasternak’s biography, as well as recent work on lyric and avant-garde temporality, the article describes “Mozhet stat'sia tak, mozhet inache” as an evocation of the complex fabric of temporal linkages binding Russian culture together at a moment when the temporal sequence itself had been upended in what Pasternak envisioned as a “purga” (“blizzard”) of revolutionary transformation.

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    Paper provided by National Research University Higher School of Economics in its series HSE Working papers with number WP BRP 14/LS/2015.

    in new window

    Length: 23 pages
    Date of creation: 2015
    Publication status: Published in WP BRP Series: Literary Studies / LS, March 2015, pages 1-23
    Handle: RePEc:hig:wpaper:14/ls/2015
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Myasnitskaya 20, Moscow 101000

    Phone: +7(495)7713232
    Fax: +7(495)6287931
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hig:wpaper:14/ls/2015. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Shamil Abdulaev)

    or (Victoria Elkina)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.