Daniel lives and works in Japan but he comes from the USA. He teaches English to university students, and he is also a shakuhachi musician.
Daniel playing at IATEFL 2017 Language Fair in Glasgow:
In 2017 we celebrate the centenary of Boris Pasternak’s poetry collection ‘My sister life’, so…
I didn’t realize that it was 100 years this year!
Have you ever read any of Boris Pasternak’s poems?
Yes, I have read some poems such as February, Hamlet, and Winter Night.
What do they feel like in your language? E.g. fresh, dusty, overcomplicated, simplistic, nothing special etc.? Please comment on any aspects.
In English some of the poems seemed simple but profound, with some phrases such as “snow swept the world from end to end,” and “life is not a walk across a field” giving me a feeling of the harshness of the weather in winter or of life at that time or in general in Russia; the latter from Hamlet; I also liked the imagery of the line “the nocturnal darkness with a thousand binoculars is focused onto me” – giving the feeling of being under surveillance or constantly watched, and now with everything happening in our modern world of computers watching us and Snowden, it has added impact. I was also impressed with some of the imagery in the poems such as in the following lines from February: “Where rooks in thousands falling like charred pears from the skies drop dead in puddles.” In the poem Winter Night the repeated lines “a candle burned on the table, a candle burned” also have a strong effect and seem to bring a feeling of loneliness and also of time passing.
What do you think might be lost in translation?
I think that poems in their original language possibly impart stronger feeling or emotion and probably carry more associations with other words in the original language or are part of some rhythm or rhyme in the original language which doesn’t get carried over but with a good translator it is probably possible to get some of the feeling of the original. It is interesting to look at different translations and see how different people translate the phrases in a poem, for example I personally like “life is not a walk across a field” better than “all mortal life is no walk in the park,” though both have the same meaning.
Would you like to read closely any of his poems together with us? For example, by Skype, because we would be happy to hear how it sounds in your language?
Yes, it could be possible.
Alternatively, you could record your reading of a poem and send it to us with your comments.
Have you ever used any of Pasternak’s poems in your teaching? Can you explain your choice? Can you tell us something about your experience?
Would you consider using any of his poems in your teaching?
As I do occasionally use poems in my teaching it is possible that I could a few of them.
In Russia this novel is still very important to anyone wanting to remember the lessons of the 20th century. We decided to ask people around the world what they are feeling about it because 2017 is another ‘year of Doctor Zhivago’: it was first published in November 1957 in Italy, in Italian language. After that it was translated into 28 languages in 2 years.
Have you read Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago (1955)? When and in which language did you read it? A few words about your impression?
Actually, I have never read it so I would like to read it in the future.
Have you seen David Lean’s film (1965) or Giacomo Campiotti’s TV miniseries (2002) of the same title? A few words about your impression?
I saw David Lean’s film as a child several times and remember thinking of the hard winters and the difficulties experienced by people in the days of the Russian Revolution and its aftermath. It seemed to be a love story with the grand backdrop of revolution and its aftermath. I would have to watch it again.
If you can compare, which did you prefer? Why?
I haven’t read the book but to compare it with my other experiences of both reading and watching a film I generally prefer the books more as they cover the story in more detail and one cannot do the same with a film but sometimes a film can create a very strong impression or can shave off parts of the novel that seem to be not so important to the story.
Appreciation of the book
There is still no consensus among either critics or readers on ‘what Doctor Zhivago is about’: whether it should be read / seen as a love story, a philosophic story, a political statement… or maybe just as a longish introduction to Jury Zhivago’s poems? Which aspect of the novel / film is more important to you?
As a story of love in a time of great upheaval and also as a philosophical reflection on it, perhaps.
Do you have a favourite character? A favourite minor character?
I will have to revisit the film and read the novel. When I saw the movie years ago I think my favorite character was the lead character Dr. Zhivago.
Can you think of the most memorable episode?
Perhaps at the end where Dr. Zhivago sees Laura and and tries to get her attention but fails.
Does Doctor Zhivago remind you of any other novel written in the 20th century in other languages? In what aspects?
Difficult question. I’d really have to read the novel! Maybe something like Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities, where the lives of individual characters are portrayed against a historical backdrop of great upheaval.
Do you feel Doctor Zhivago is still worth reading / watching? Why?
I think any novel where one can identify with the characters and their lives is worth reading.
Would you use extracts from the book / film with your students?
I will try to track down the film; I may be able to find it at a film rental shop.
Reading the text
Talking about the text of the novel, what do you think might have been lost in translation?
As I haven’t read it I can’t answer this question.
Would you like to read closely an extract of your or our choice together with us? For example, by Skype?
Would you like to record for us your reading of an extract from the novel in English or your language and send it to us with your comments?
I would like to read it myself first and then perhaps discuss it or do a reading.
Would you consider using an extract from this novel with your students?
It will probably be too difficult for my students who are now reading low level graded readers.
The story around the book
Arguably, the publication, distribution and appreciation of Doctor Zhivago proved to be a crucial episode in the history of the Cold War.
Do you know anything or would like to find out about this? Do you think it would be useful for your students, too?
Yes, I was reading about this on the Internet; it’s quite an interesting story.
What is your personal attitude / an attitude accepted in your culture towards the Nobel Prize in literature?
It is quite an important prize and many deserving authors have received it, I think.
Do you think Pasternak deserved the Nobel Prize in literature (1958), which for the world’s readership was associated mainly with Doctor Zhivago?
Yes, I think so.
Can you think about any other disputed titles that won the Nobel Prize?
The recent writings of Bob Dylan. Combined with the music, the lyrics are impressive and have had a great influence on modern American culture. Dylan is certainly a great songwriter but is it literature is a question that many have asked.
Has your impression about the film / novel been affected by anybody’s opinion?
I did read a couple of movie reviews but mostly just to get a picture of the story’s plot as I mentioned that I watched the film some decades ago.
Have you read any criticism either about the novel or the film / series? Did you find it useful? Why? Could you tell us about a review / piece of criticism which you found useful?
I’ll have to go back and find a review by Pauline Kael.
Any other suggestions, comments etc. are welcome!
Yes, maybe we could do some poetry reading on Skype. That sounds very interesting. I haven’t actually used Skype very much at all; only once or twice with visuals!