|The Bolshevik by Kustodiev|
I am a sucker for Russian novels, for snow and despair, and for tragic love stories. Anna (Karenina), Emma (Bovary), and now Larissa (Feodorovna), tell me how it didn’t work out for you, and I will feel sympathetic for your loss. I shouldn’t; it’s your own damn fault that you were married and chose to love another. But, I do. Because these things happen. In the midst of war, or the boredom of everyday lives, or utter isolation, it would be easy to be led astray. But how much harder to suffer the consequences.
Lara’s husband is fighting for freedom; after searching for him, assuming him dead, she is left alone to raise their daughter, Katenka. Yuri Zhivago was taken captive by the army to help the wounded. After he escapes, he is a fugitive. While living with Lara, they can neither return to their respective homes nor make a new one together. It is a hopeless situation, indicative to me of the hopelessness found in Russia during the October Revolution. Their joy together is brief and ultimately destined for despair.
“The closer this woman and her daughter became to him, the less he dared to think of them as family and the stricter was the control imposed on his thoughts by his duty to his own family and the pain of his broken faith…But the division in him was a sorrow and a torment, and he became accustomed to it only as one gets used to an unhealed and frequently reopened wound.” (p. 406)
But before that, their relationship is explained as this:
“Their love was great. Most people experience love without becoming aware of the extraordinary nature of this emotion. But to them–and this made them exceptional–the moments when passion visited their doomed human existence like a breath of eternity were moments of revelation, of continually new discoveries about themselves and life.” (p. 395)
How can it be both, a torment and a revelation? Perhaps in a similar way that the Bolsheviks are striving for their place in Russia…
A book of tremendous layers, political as well as social, it is always the story of Yuri and Lara which most moves me. I can almost cry with her as
“she was shaken by her repressed sobs. She fought her tears as long as she could, but at times it was beyond her strength and they burst from her, pouring down her cheeks and onto her dress, her hands, and the coffin, to which she clung.
She neither spoke nor thought. Sequences of ideas, notions, insights, truths drifted and sailed freely through her mind, like clouds in the sky, as happened so often before during their nighttime conversations. It was such things that had brought them happiness and liberation in those days. A spontaneous mutual understanding, warm, instinctive, immediate.” (p. 501)
A mutual understanding which they were forced to forfeit because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.