Lara Prescott Talks Banned Books, Love Affairs, and Secret CIA Missions | The Secrets We Kept


I was actually joking to my
friends that I wrote this whole book so that more people
would say my name right. We all typed, but some of us did more. We spoke no word of the work we did after we covered our typewriters each day. Unlike some of the men,
we could keep our secrets. Hi, I’m Lara Prescott, author of Reese’s Book Club Pick,
“The Secrets We Kept”. And today, I’m gonna tell you
the secrets I’ve been keeping. “The Secrets We Kept” is a
work of historical fiction set in the 1950s about a group of women in the CIA’s typing pool, and the fate of Boris Pasternak’s
masterpiece, “Doctor Zhivago”. “Doctor Zhivago” has always been a really big part of my life. As a kid, I would always
sneak into my mom’s room and wind up her musical jewelry box to hear it play “Lara’s
Theme” again and again. But it wasn’t until I was
a teenager that I actually picked up the big Russian book and read it for the first time. I just was so entranced by
Boris’s poetic sentences, and just his mastery of the language. And in recent readings, I
really took to learning about how this book was deemed subversive in the Soviet Union,
and why it was banned. He emphasized the importance
of the individual, and in communism in the Soviet Union, that was enough to ban it. The CIA had a role in
smuggling “Dr. Zhivago” back behind the Iron
Curtain, where it was banned. And I just thought it
was an incredible thing to think about, a book
being used as a weapon. I immediately went to, like you would do, I guess, and it was seeing
those redacted documents for the first time with
all their blacked out lines that I thought about fictionalizing it, and filling in the
blanks with my own words. This is “Dr. Zhivago”. He held out the package for a moment before Pasternak dropped his hands. “May it make its way around the world.” Pasternak called after them. “You are hereby invited to my execution.” After I was looking at those documents, I came across the first voice of my novel, which is the voice of the typists. And their voice just came to
me in the middle of the night. I hear other writers
say that all the time, I never believed it, but it did. And I e-mailed myself the first lines that are still in the novel. We typed a hundred words per minute, and never missed a syllable. Our identical desks were each equipped with a mint-shelled Royal
Quiet Deluxe typewriter, a black Western Electric rotary phone, and a stack of yellow steno pads. Our fingers flew across the keys. Our clacking was constant. I soon came across the amazing
story of Boris Pasternak’s mistress and muse who was
the inspiration for Lara in “Dr. Zhivago”, and her
name was Olga Ivinskaya. I just knew that the other half of my book had to be told from her lens. I was like, whoa, I’ve
never written a story like this from this plural voice, and I just thought, I might as well try. So, my research started with reading every book I could about Boris Pasternak, “Dr. Zhivago”, the CIA, early women spies. This is a passport of an early woman spy named Betty McIntosh. She really served as a blueprint
for my character, Sally. Her and a few other spies. After I read, I would say, over 100 books, I decided to travel to
Russia for the first time, and we walked around
Moscow, and kinda followed the footsteps of where Boris had lived, and where Olga had worked, and
where they’d walked together around the city during
their early courtship. And then we also went to Peredelkino, which was the writer’s
colony where Boris lived. It was just an unbelievable experience, getting off the train and walking the same route that Boris would walk. I also went to London, and Paris. Being in those places that
I’d have never been before, and soaking in the
atmosphere was so essential to nailing down all the places that the book travels to in my novel. This is a tiny little ticket. The CIA had used the Vatican
pavilion as a staging ground to smuggle “Dr. Zhivago” into the hands of Soviet citizens visiting the fair. This is the Soviet’s pamphlet and guide to their pavilion during Expo ’58. His eyes filled with tears. “It’s here,” he says again. “Who did this?” Boris asks. The visitor pours himself a drink. “They say it was the Americans.” This is a miniature edition that the CIA printed of “Doctor Zhivago”. This was printed in 1959. They made them small so they were easier to carry and smuggle in a pocket. I love to surround myself with historical artifacts while I’m writing. Above my desk there’s a framed picture of Boris Pasternak’s Time
magazine cover in 1958, and I had the miniature edition, and all these different things around my desk, which I kinda was hoping some of the magic would rub off on me. I opened it and read aloud in Russian. “They loved each other,
not driven by necessity, “but by the blaze of passion
often falsely ascribed to love. “They loved each other because “everything around them willed it. The trees, and the clouds,
and the sky above their heads, “and the Earth under their feet.” I shut the book. I didn’t want to think of her. I couldn’t.

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4 thoughts on “Lara Prescott Talks Banned Books, Love Affairs, and Secret CIA Missions | The Secrets We Kept”

  1. james S says:

    CIA used this website to work

  2. Pride In Photos BEAUTY says:

    I look SO FORWARD to reading this!!!!! This clip was so inspiring and motivating, bringing a NEED to read this book. Bravo!! 👏🏻💕👱🏻‍♀️Laurie

  3. francois williams says:

    Hi, hello from Klub Safari here in Mindanao, Philippines…ever been to Asia before? Brothers Karamazov was my favourite at 12…I also recommend Zorba the Greek…My good friend Kleinboer, author from South Africa ahd his first book translated to English from Afrikaans of course…amazing book, Midnight Missionary…

  4. francois williams says:

    Do the Americans have an equivalent of Pasternak, someone who can open their eyes?

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