Boris Leonidovich Pasternak is well known as both a poet and a novelist. He was born in Moscow in 1890, the child of an artist and a concert pianist, both of Jewish descent. The family was well-connected in artistic circles, associating with famous writers such as Tolstoy and Rilke. Pasternak at first studied music, but in 1912, he began studying philosophy. A year later, he gave up philosophy to devote himself to poetry.

He was married twice, once in 1921 and once in 1934. During the 1930s, he was one among many artists who were persecuted by Stalin's regime; publication of his work was restricted, so he devoted himself to translating literature from other languages, including Shakespeare's plays. Doctor Zhivago, generally considered his masterpiece, was published in 1957 in Italy, but it was denied publication in the USSR. Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 but was forced to renounce the award after an intense Soviet campaign of denunciation. He pleaded with the government for permission to remain in Russia, and he lived in virtual exile in an artists' colony outside Moscow until his death in 1960.

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