Interview on Inge Schoental

Editor’s note

Today we revert, at our readers’ request, to the Pasternak case in order to discuss an important aspect of those events that has so far remained obscure.

We will recall, especially for the benefit of the younger members of our readership, that Boris Pasternak (1890 – 1960), a Russian poet, writer, and unquestionably a genius, was subjected in the last years of his life to harsh persecution by the Soviet regime. The ostensible reason for that was publication in the West of Doctor Zhivago, a superb novel that was banned in his native country but deferentially acclaimed throughout the world, bringing its author the highest reward, the Nobel Prize for Literature. Doctor Zhivago was first published in Milan, Italy, in November 1957. It was put out by a publishing house founded by Giangiacomo Feltrinelli just a couple of years previously.

 Although Feltrinelli Jr. had inherited one of Italy’s major financial-industrial corporations, he was a member of the Communist Party of Italy and most generously supported it financially. However, in the spring of 1957 he left the Communist Party in protest against pressure from the party’s leadership that interfered with his plans to publish the novel rejected by Moscow. He declared that, as a left-leaning publisher, he intended to stand up for complete freedom of speech and thought. In actual fact, however, he largely withdrew from the publishing business in the years that followed, devoting himself entirely to the revolutionary cause. At first he provided generous financial support for rebel movements in Third World countries, but later engaged in subversive activities in Italy and neighboring countries. He died in an attempted act of terror in a Milan suburb in March 1972.

The aspect of the Pasternak case referred to above concerns the role played in Giangiacomo Feltrinelli’s life over nearly fifteen years (1958 – 1972) by a woman whose name was Inge Schönthal. In 1962 Inge gave birth to Giangiacomo’s son Carlo, the only heir to his father’s multibillion fortune, which Inge has been running for several decades since then.

For a more in-depth coverage of the issue, Kontinent USA interviewed Sergio d’Angelo, the Italian journalist who, back in the spring of 1956, received the manuscript of Doctor Zhivago from Boris Pasternak with the understanding that he would hand it over to Feltrinelli, and who played an important role in the subsequent turbulent events both in and outside Russia. Those events were described in detail in his book published in Italy in 2006. A year later, in September 2007, a few days after the Russian edition of that book appeared (Delo Pasternaka: Vospominaniya ochevidtsa ‘The Pasternak Case: Recollections of an Eyewitness’, Novoye literaturnoye obozreniye Publishers, Moscow, 2007), d’Angelo won the Liberty Prize (the Window on Europe section). The Prize was established in 1999. Its panel of judges includes celebrated figures of the Russian-American community. Awarded annually to individuals who make a significant contribution to culture, the prize is sponsored by the Russia House in Washington, American University in Moscow, and Kontinent USA .

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