In the archives of...
Life, Cornell Capa
Boris Pasternak AT. Peredelkino, URSS, 1958 © Cornell Capa
Asked to name a favorite picture Cornell Capa recalled he was in Moscow when Boris Pasternak won the 1958 Nobel Prize for Literature. (The poet’s novel, Doctor Zhivago, had been smuggled abroad and published in Italy a year earlier but was still banned in the Soviet Union.) Accepting the award, Pasternak wired the Nobel committee that he was “immensely thankful, touched, proud, astonished, abashed.” Said Capa:
It was the most incredible day. Pasternak, a great spirit and a wonderful actor, spoke Shakespearean English. He made a toast to Madam, it was his wife's namesake day, a wonderful picture; a toast to freedom. Then in the cherry orchard, behind him is this terrific picture of a Russian garden which has doom written all over it. My final look at Pasternak was sitting on a garden bench with the incredible scene of that orchard garden. You couldn't get a sadder picture, wanting to remember Doctor Zhivago or Boris Pasternak, and that picture was the last one taken of him being visited by a foreigner, me. The Soviet Government forbade Pasternak to go to Stockholm to receive the prize, and two years later he died.
The Nobel medal was presented to Pasternak’s son in Stockholm in 1989.
(Interviewed on October 25, 1993. Excerpted from: John Loengard, LIFE Photographers: What They Saw, Boston, A Bullfinch Press Book, 1998)