The small dacha in Peredelkino outside Moscow where Boris Pasternak lived for several years and where in 1960 he died is now a museum. It was there that the Writer's Union representative took us - a group of jet-lagged American journal editors - on the first afternoon of our recent visit. The books and the furniture and the grand piano and the drawings by his father Leonid, all of which had been carted off after Pasternak's death, when the dacha was unceremoniously assigned to another writer, have been brought back, and the poet who had been expelled by the Writer's Union in the wake of the publication of Doctor Zhivago, is now given culture's highest tribute - museumification. This means a woman at a desk, tearing tickets printed on cheap paper; another woman with a feather duster and an expression of unutterable boredom; and a voluble young man with mad eyes who conducts a tour. He shows us the drawing-room, the dining-room, the small bedroom where Pasternak died. A framed reproduction of his father's portrait of Tolstoy hangs on the wall; on the bed lies a wilted bouquet of flowers, a reminder of the thousands of mourners who showed up to pay their last respects, lining up for three days on the lanes that ran through the birch woods, even though there had been only the smallest death notice in the newspapers and though public expressions of grief were not, to put it mildly, encouraged.
LRB 24 January 1991 | PDF Download