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Shakespeare, William

King Lear. First edition of Pasternak's translation.

King Lear. First edition of Pasternak's translation.

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Boris Pasternak / English literature / First edition / Illustrated books / Translations / William Shakespeare
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Shakespeare, William [King Lear]. Korol’ Lir.

Translation by Boris Pasternak.
Afterword and comments by Mikhail Morozov.
Covers, frontispiece and headpieces by Vladimir Favorsky.

Moskva, Khudozhestvennaya literatura, 1949.
8vo, frontispiece, 161, [3] pp., ill.

In publisher’s illustrated wrappers and modern clamshell box.
In good condition, lightly rubbed, small losses to spine, foxing.


First edition of "King Lear" in Pasternak's translations.
One of 10 000 copies published. Signed for print on November 24, 1948.

Boris Pasternak (1890-1960) became a translator at the end of the 1930s, "not by good fortune" – it was almost the only way to work as a man of a letter. He translated eight plays by Shakespeare – "Hamlet," "Romeo and Juliet," "Antony and Cleopatra," "Othello," "Henry IV" (two parts), "King Lear," and "Macbeth."
Pasternak finished "King Lear"’s translation in the fall of 1947. He described "King Lear" as a "quiet tragedy" in which love is the main victim. In the letter to philologist Olga Freidenberg he wrote: "I once translated well and it was to no good; the only way to take revenge is to do the same badly and carelessly fast... I do not care about Lear and about how good – or how bad – my translation will be. It does not matter at all now" (Shakespeare and the Second World War, 2012). At that time Pasternak was focused
on his novel "Doctor Zhivago". The manuscript of this translation was kept by Pasternak’s friend, poet, and futurist Aleksei Kruchenykh.
In this first edition the Duke of Albany expresses a very dangerous idea for Stalin’s era: "Let’s follow this shadow example Of longevity and long-suffering." For the second edition of the translation which appeared later in 1949 in Detgiz, Pasternak changed only the last two lines. The tragedy ended with the words: "The old man got through it hard and inflexible. We will never be able to experience it."
Book design was prepared by Vladimir Favorsky (1886-1964), a key figure in Russian graphic design of the XXth century and a professor at VKhUTEMAS. He also illustrated the first book edition of "Hamlet" in Pasternak’s translation.
Short afterword and comments were created by Pasternak’s "private critic," literary critic, and Shakespearean scholar Mikhail Morozov (1897-1952). He headed the cabinet of Shakespeare and Western European theater at the All-Russian Theatrical Society.
The script for the Soviet drama film "King Lear" (1971), directed by Grigori Kozintsev, was based on Pasternak’s translation.

Zakharenko, 1995. # 118.

OCLC locates only one copy of this edition: in the Harvard University Library.

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