Time and Space in Pasternak's Doktor zhivago and" This World"

Erzsebet Schiller, University of Budapest

In my paper I would like to present the space-time conception in two of Boris Pasternak's writings: Doktor Zhivago and "This World". The drama fragment "This World is akin to and progenitor of the novel from several aspects. This connection is much stronger than one would realize based on the conspicuous self-quotations and identical names of characters. "Time space", the action-animating power of the Baxtinian chronotope, is a significant feature of both of these writings of Pasternak's.

zhivago, whose disposition resembles that of Dudorov's, a protagonist of the drama, is faced with similar problems; he wants to solve the troubles of his life--or to swim with his fate--by perpetually drifting from place to place. He does not simply travel: by covering shorter and longer distances, he hopes to take time with himself as well. (Even when he does not move voluntarily, his way of thinking still follows these paths.) He steps out of space, so as he would not have to step out of time. I dare say, he rebels against the inseparability of space and time, he creates the chronotopes himself, and seeks arbitrarily to restructure time as the fourth dimension of space.

We know from Pasternak's letters that according to his intentions the drama was to speak of past and future. Unlike the retrospective method of Doktor Zhivago, the actions in the drama are almost contemporary with its time of writing. As far as we can retrace it, the focus of the drama wanted to be the very moment when, at the beginning of the Second World War a Russian village was free from both Soviet and German rule: this village becomes out of space and time for a short while--not only of historical, but of individual space and time as well, since a protagonist feels as if this moment was the last before his death, in which both individual and historical Russian space and time is condensed. In fact, this takes up most part of the text, which Pasternak actually wrote in his fragment. Thus the space and time of the drama are real, but they are condensed in a chronotopic form. The tension of the fragment is based on this extreme historical situation, or rather on its formal expression. Reading the play from the direction of Doktor Zhivago, it is evident that at least one reason for its fragmented form is just the impossibility of stepping out of organic space-time: the protagonist cannot solve the conflict (or in fact, the author does not follow it through) because the situation is in essence unable to step out of his space-time. Obviously, the characteristics of drama as a genre cannot be ignored; it is exactly the approach to space and time that makes a drama different from a novel.

In this case, however, we should lay smaller emphasis on the obvious differences of epic and drama--or rather we should consider them in another way. Namely, Pasternak still was not thinking about leaving his drama unfinished, when he already knew that it was not performable--rather because of formal than political reasons. The leading of acts both in the drama-fragment and the novel shows that albeit the situation of the play and the intention of the presumable male protagonist are dramatic, the approach of the writer is epic.