I WANT TO offer you my sympathies. Never in your wildest dreams could you have imagined your masterpiece Doctor Zhivago selling 75,000 copies in a day. Yet your great-niece, Anna, who has never even written a book before, succeeds with her first attempt.

Where did you go wrong? Doctor Zhivago has all the romantic ingredients of Anna Pasternak's Princess in Love. There is a noble but tragic male hero, doomed to love the wife of another. There is a beautiful woman, Lara, trapped in a joyless marriage, prepared to risk her soul for the magic of love.

There is adventure, excitement, war, the fever of power politics. There is the passionate love tryst in the dacha. There is the danger of being caught, banished, disgraced.

Let's tell the truth, Boris. You screwed up badly. All that nonsense about Zhivago being a poet was a big mistake. He should have played polo, or been a gung-ho soldier, blowing away a few enemies of the state. Hell, why bother to make him fictional?

As for Lara. What a babushka she turned out to be. She couldn't wear a tiara with dignity if she had a brain transplant. There is not a word anywhere in your book about keep-fit sessions, bulimia or mobile phones. As for her lineage] Her mother owned a factory, for God's sake.

Of course, it's easy, in retrospect, to see where things went wrong. You should have based your heroine not on the daughter of a dressmaker but on Comrade Stalin's wife. Doctor Zhivago should not have been a man of refinement and culture but a tank commander storming the citadel of the fascists.

Admittedly, you might not have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. But what good did the Nobel Prize do you? The award led to a campaign against you in the Soviet Union, and you had to decline it.

That's not likely to happen to your great-niece, of course. She will become the toast of Britain, with newspapers queueing up to invite her comments and articles on the monarchy. She's even been provided with a sensational blurb for the cover of the book - 'grubby and tawdry' - by Buckingham Palace.

You have to admire Anna's panache. All writers do things for money, no matter how grand they are. But there aren't many around smart enough to go straight for chequebook scandal-raking at Anna's age of 27.

Perhaps there are reasons to admire your descendent. After all, if it weren't for the media and public being prepared to pay handsomely, books like this would never be written.

And, since we live in a democracy, not a totalitarian state, the public must always be right.

So, Boris, I bet you're sorry now. I bet you're thinking: 'Darn, why didn't I phone that Beria guy and get the low-down on Uncle Joe's missus. I could have been a contender, I could have been somebody.'

Richard Tyrrell

(Photograph omitted)

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