— Borís Pasternak, book Doctor Zhivago
Book One, Ch. 2 : A Girl from a Different World, § 10, as translated by Max Hayward and Manya Harari (1958)
I think that if the beast dormant in man could be stopped by the threat of, whatever, the lockup or requital beyond the grave, the highest emblem of mankind would be a lion tamer with his whip, and not the preacher who sacrifices himself. But the point is precisely this, that for centuries man has been raised above the animals and borne aloft not by the rod, but by music: the irresistibility of the unarmed truth, the attraction of its example. It has been considered up to now that the most important thing in the Gospels is the moral pronouncements and rules, but for me the main thing is that Christ speaks in parables from daily life, clarifying the truth with the light of everyday things. At the basis of this lies the thought that communion among mortals is immortal and that life is symbolic because it is meaningful.
Book One, Part 2 : A Girl from a Different World, § 10, as translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (2010)
I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats of any kind, whether of jail or retribution, then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion tamer, not the prophet who sacrificed himself.... What for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but the irresistible power of unarmed truth.
Paraphrase of the 1958 translation, as quoted in The New York Times (1 January 1978)
Doctor Zhivago (1957)
Context: I think that if the beast who sleeps in man could be held down by threats — any kind of threat, whether of jail or of retribution after death — then the highest emblem of humanity would be the lion tamer in the circus with his whip, not the prophet who sacrificed himself. But don’t you see, this is just the point — what has for centuries raised man above the beast is not the cudgel but an inward music: the irresistible power of unarmed truth, the powerful attraction of its example. It has always been assumed that the most important things in the Gospels are the ethical maxims and commandments. But for me the most important thing is that Christ speaks in parables taken from life, that He explains the truth in terms of everyday reality. The idea that underlies this is that communion between mortals is immortal, and that the whole of life is symbolic because it is meaningful.