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You mean Dr. Zhivago is about Russia? [14 Nov 2003|11:50pm]


It is quite amazing that my little blog here seems to be exceeding its monthly traffic allotment. Particularly since it seems that my primary audience is a bunch of searchbots. However, as of yet, there seems to be no consequence for exceeding one's traffic limits other than a message that recommends an upgrade.


Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to see Doctor Zhivago in a theater. Despite my curiosity about Russian and Soviet history, I had never seen it before. Actually, I did not even know that it was about Russia. My strongest association with the film was with Christian Slater's character's use of it as a metaphor for a cocaine deal in True Romance.

A couple of things struck me while I was watching the movie in a near-empty theater, sitting just in front of an older couple who had moved to the back of the theater because it was too loud in the front.

First, I retain almost nothing that I read. I had a course in Russian history as an undergraduate (which wasn't that long ago). I have an interest in Marxist philosophy (somewhere someone has just created a black file folder with my name on it) so I have read some additional Russian history while exploring that interest. Yet I remember nothing. There was the White Guard, the Red Guard, the Bolsheviks, etc. But I couldn't tell you anything about any of them.

Second, there seems to be an instinctive human urge to destroy other people's art. This urge was manifested in the Cultural Revolution in China, the various revolutions in Russia, the takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan, etc. It is manifested in the United States whenever some talking head in the government goes after the National Endowment for the Arts for funding some controversial project.

Yet, critics often say that art has little potential to motivate political change. I wonder how this can be the case when it seems that one of the first priorities for any new dictatorship is to crack down on oppositional art and regulate expression in general. Such crackdowns could be motivated by a desire to demonstrate power for its own sake, but I think that the number of historical cases demonstrate that there is something deeper going on.

The life stories of Russian writers like Boris Pasternak (he wrote the novel on which the film Doctor Zhivago was based) are darkly fascinating. They faced persecution but still insisted on writing. I often wonder whether I am as committed to my own writing, or whether it is just a hobby. The life stories of writers like Pasternak make me realize that it is in fact possible for writers to feel driven in such a way that they risk their lives in order to write. It is something to strive for, or at least to keep in mind.

For some contemporary writing that is pushing some political boundaries, check out: http://www.muse-apprentice-guild.com.

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