Paolo Mancosu: Zhivago’s Secret Journey

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
zhivago secret journey

The Hoover Institution Press released Zhivago’s Secret Journeyby Paolo Mancosu, a breakthrough contribution to the study of the esteemed Russian Nobel laureate Boris Pasternak. 

Zhivago’s Secret Journey unveils the secret history of the typescripts of Doctor Zhivago that Boris Pasternak sent outside the Soviet Union and the network of contacts that transformed them into the Russian editions published in the West and translations in other foreign languages. Drawing from the Boris Pasternak Collection at Hoover Archives—the largest collection of Pasternak materials in the world—the book tells the fascinating stories of a set of smuggled typescripts that passed through the hands of family, friends, publishers, plagiarists, and agents from both the CIA and the KGB.

Zhivago’s Secret Journey, by Paolo Mancosu
Zhivago’s Secret Journey, by Paolo Mancosu

Boris Pasternak began writing his masterpiece Doctor Zhivago in Russia in 1945; between May 1956 and March 1957, he sent at least six typescripts of Doctor Zhivago outside the USSR, knowing that the book would be censored by the Soviets in his own country. In Zhivago’s Secret Journey —the story of those typescripts—Mancosu continues the investigation he began in his 2013 book Inside the Zhivago Storm, which the New York Review of Books described as “a tour de force of literary detection worthy of a scholarly Sherlock Holmes.” In this book Mancosu extends his detective work by reconstructing the network of contacts that helped Pasternak smuggle the typescripts of Doctor Zhivago outside the Soviet Union and following the vicissitudes of the typescripts when they arrived in the West. Mancosu draws on wealth of firsthand sources to piece together the long-standing mysteries surrounding the many different typescripts that played a role in the publication of Doctor Zhivago, thereby solving the problem of which typescript served as the basis of the first Russian edition: a pirate publication covertly orchestrated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  He also offers a new perspective, aided by the recently declassified CIA documents, by narrowing the number of those who might have passed the typescript to the CIA. In the process, Mancosu reveals details of events that were treated as top secret by all those involved, vividly recounting the history of the publication of Pasternak’s epic work with all its human and political ramifications.

Mancosu’s riveting narration of the history of the publication of Pasternak’s epic work takes the reader on a whirlwind tour covering the network of contacts that, from Russia to England, from Poland to Italy, from France to Uruguay, brought about the publication of the novel in Russian and other Western languages. This book constitutes a huge leap forward in our understanding of the most complex political-literary case of the twentieth century.

Drawing from a rich trove of archival documents, Mancosu reveals details of events that were treated as top secret by all those involved. He discusses

  • Early smugglings of the typescript of the book and Pasternak’s state of mind as he entertained the thought that sending the novel abroad might force publication at home
  • The story of how the first typescript of Doctor Zhivago left the Soviet Union—and how the KGB came to know that Pasternak’s novel had been smuggled abroad
  • How the Hungarian revolt of 1956 had a direct impact on the history of the publication of Doctor Zhivago
  • The roles of Isaiah Berlin, Hélène Peltier, George Katkov, Jacqueline de Proyart, and other key players in the adventure
  • The events that led to the book’s publication in Poland, Italy, France, England, and the United States
  • The involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency in the publication of the first Russian pirate edition published in Holland in 1958
  • Which of the six typescripts was the source of the microfilm that the CIA received

Readers will come away from Zhivago’s Secret Journey with a new and thorough appreciation of how a single revolutionary book can become an international cause célèbre.

AUTHOR: Paolo Mancosu is Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Inside the Zhivago Storm: The Editorial Adventures of Pasternak’s Masterpiece (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2013) and Smugglers, Rebels, Pirates: Itineraries in the Publishing History of Doctor Zhivago (Stanford: Hoover Press, 2015). He has been a fellow of the Humboldt Stiftung, the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and  the Institut d’Études Avancées in Paris.

For more information on Zhivago’s Secret Journey, visit  For more information on the Hoover Institution, visit or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Scribd (keyword: Hoover Institution).

About the Hoover Institution:  The Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is a public policy research center devoted to the advanced study of economics, politics, history, and political economy—both domestic and foreign—as well as international affairs. With its eminent scholars and world-renowned Library & Archives, the Hoover Institution seeks to improve the human condition by advancing ideas that promote economic opportunity and prosperity and secure and safeguard peace for America and all mankind.

CONTACT INFORMATION:  Jean Cannon | Hoover Institution Library & Archives | Hoover Institution jmcannon [at] | 650-723-1512