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Date: 6 novembre 1958

Lorsque le prix Nobel de littérature est attribué à Boris Pasternak en octobre 1958, la critique se déchaîne contre lui en Union soviétique (URSS). Best-seller en Occident, «Le docteur Jivago» n'est pas diffusé dans le pays de son auteur qui est exclu des rangs de l'Union des écrivains soviétiques le 28 octobre. Des journaux dénoncent le roman et le prix, qu'ils qualifient «d'orienté politiquement».Certains vont même jusqu'à exiger que Pasternak soit expulsé d'URSS. Bien que son gouvernement l'ait laissé libre d'accepter le prix et même de quitter le pays en permanence, l'écrivain réagit en annonçant qu'il refuse le Nobel «à la lumière de la signification donnée à cet honneur dans la communauté à laquelle j'appartiens». Le 6 novembre, la Pravda publie même une lettre de Pasternak dans laquelle il exprime ses regrets.

Sélection et mise en page par l'équipe de Perspective monde

To the Editors of " Pravda "

May I ask you to publish this statement in the columns of your paper ?

My respect for the truth compels me to make it.

Just as everything that has happened to me has been the natural consequence of my own actions, so have all my statements in regard to the award of the Nobel prize been free and voluntary.

I regarded the award of the Nobel prize as a literary distinction, I was delighted by it and expressed this delight in a telegram to Anders Esterling, the Secretary of the Swedish Academy.

But I was mistaken. I had grounds for being mistaken, since I had previously been nominated to receive it, for example, five years ago, before my novel was written.

By the end of the week, when I saw what vast dimensions the political campaign around my novel had acquired, and had become convinced that the award was a political move, which has now resulted in such monstrous consequences, I on my own conviction, compelled by no one, sent my own voluntary refusal.

In my letter to Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev I declared that I was bound to Russia by my birth, life and work and that it was inconceivable for me to leave my country and become an exile in foreign lands. In speaking of this bond, I meant not only my kinship with the Russian land and countryside, but. of course, also with its people, its past, its glorious present and its future.

However, between me and this bond there arose a wall of obstacles, caused through my own fault by the novel. I never intended any harm to my state and my people.

The editors of Novy Mir warned me that the novel might be understood by readers as a book directed against the October Revolution and the foundations of Soviet society. I did not appreciate this, to my present regret.

Indeed, if the conclusions arising from a critical analysis of the novel are considered, it appears as if I maintained the following erroneous positions in my novel. I am supposed to declare that every revolution is an historically unlawful phenomenon, that the October Revolution is one such unlawful occurrence, that it brought Russia misery and resulted in the destruction of the Russian intelligentsia succeeding to it.

Clearly I cannot subscribe to such absurd statements. Meanwhile my book, which had been awarded the Nobel prize, has occasioned such a regrettable interpretation, and it is for this reason that finally I refused the prize.

If publication of the book had been suspended as I requested my publisher in Italy (the book has been published in other countries without my knowledge), probably I would have succeeded in correcting this, if only partially. However, the book has been published and it is too late to speak of this.

During the course of this eventful week I have not been persecuted ; neither my life, my liberty nor anything at all has been in danger. I wish once more to stress the fact that all my actions have been done voluntarily. People who know me closely know well that nothing in the world could make me dissemble or act against my conscience. So it was on this occasion. There is no need to give an assurance that nobody forced me to do anything, and that I am making this statement of my own free will, with a bright faith in the general, as well as my own personal, future, and with pride in the times in which I live and in the people around me.

I believe that I shall find strength in myself to restore my good name and the shattered confidence of my friends.

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