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The Evolution of Boris Pasternak’s Poetic Language (Based on the Poems Melʹnitsy and Balʹzak)

Roberta Salvatore


The aim of this paper is to discuss how Pasternak’s poetic language changed over the 10-year period stretching from the mid-1910s to the mid-1920s. The transition from futurist text structure towards the search for an “unheard-of simplicity” will be shown through an analysis of two poems, Melʹnitsy and Balʹzak, written respectively in 1916 and 1927. We intend to prove that these texts contain the same set of images and themes, but they are constructed in such different ways that it becomes hard to identify their similarities. To show further evidence of this evolution, we will also carry out an analysis of the second version of Melʹnitsy, which was printed in 1929. As a result, we can say that Pasternak’s early poetry produces contradictory impressions, since an apparently direct self-expression coexists with a highly structural awareness. This puzzling effect can be explained as a peculiar form of communication, in which a specific meaning is hidden under what appears at the surface to be semantic incoherence. The later shift in Pasternak’s poetry towards a greater coherence and simplicity is due to his eagerness to reach a new public, one that—unlike his previous audience—was not able to penetrate the complex structure of his earlier approach.


poetics; Boris Pasternak; evolution of poetic language; linguistic and semantic devices


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