Being rewarded for your work is always, well, rewarding! We’re not talking about getting a five-dollar gift card, either. We talking about a nice trophy or medal for your room. One person got a big reward and simply walked away from it.

Can I get a doctor?

When it comes to Russian writing, Boris Pasternak was the king. Born out of Moscow, Pasternak turned heads with his first collection of poetry titled My Sister, Life.

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His biggest piece ever is the 1957 novel, Doctor Zhivago. Taking place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and World War II, the novel is a rough read for many. Appalled by the content, the book was banned from being published in the Soviet Union. In what could’ve been a Mission: Impossible storyline, the transcript was secretly taken to Milan for publication.

The ultimate choice

Because of his work, Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature on October 23, 1958. This was a big moment for the author, but the Communist Party of the Soviet Union were completely furious. They threatened to ban him from the Soviet Union if he went to Stockholm to collect his award. While he could’ve simply started a new life with endless Swedish meatballs, he would’ve left a family behind. Upset by the ultimatum, Pasternak was forced to relinquish the prize six days later.


“In view of the meaning given the award by the society in which I live, I must renounce this undeserved distinction which has been conferred on me. Please do not take my voluntary renunciation amiss,” he told the Nobel Committee. His son Evgenii was simply crushed at watching his father sit in sorrow.  “I couldn’t recognize my father when I saw him that evening. Pale, lifeless face, tired painful eyes, and only speaking about the same thing: ‘Now it all doesn’t matter, I declined the Prize,'” he said. Two years later, the author died.

A bittersweet victory

There is a happy ending to this story, though. In 1988, Doctor Zhivago was finally allowed to be published in the Soviet Union. The 30-year battle to get it in his home country finally ended. A year later, Yevgenii was allowed to obtain his father’s Nobel Prize in a ceremony in Stockholm.


“Never, ever did I think this could happen … but the perestroika is so fast sometimes,” Evgenii said at the ceremony.