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A Russian Journal

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Just after the iron curtain fell on Eastern Europe John Steinbeck and acclaimed war photographer, Robert Capa ventured into the Soviet Union to report for the New York Herald Tribune. This rare opportunity took the famous travellers not only to Moscow and Stalingrad - now Volgograd - but through the countryside of the Ukraine and the Caucasus. A RUSSIAN JOURNAL is the distillation of their journey and remains a remarkable memoir and unique historical document. Steinbeck and Capa recorded the grim realities of factory workers, government clerks, and peasants, as they emerged from the rubble of World War II. This is an intimate glimpse of two artists at the height of their powers, answering their need to document human struggle

212 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 1948

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About the author

John Steinbeck

959 books21.8k followers
John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. (1902-1968) was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939, and the novella, Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962, Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley region of California, a culturally diverse place of rich migratory and immigrant history. This upbringing imparted a regionalistic flavor to his writing, giving many of his works a distinct sense of place.

Steinbeck moved briefly to New York City, but soon returned home to California to begin his career as a writer. Most of his earlier work dealt with subjects familiar to him from his formative years. An exception was his first novel Cup of Gold which concerns the pirate Henry Morgan, whose adventures had captured Steinbeck's imagination as a child.

In his subsequent novels, Steinbeck found a more authentic voice by drawing upon direct memories of his life in California. Later, he used real historical conditions and events in the first half of 20th century America, which he had experienced first-hand as a reporter.

Steinbeck often populated his stories with struggling characters; his works examined the lives of the working class and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. His later body of work reflected his wide range of interests, including marine biology, politics, religion, history, and mythology.

One of his last published works was Travels with Charley, a travelogue of a road trip he took in 1960 to rediscover America. He died in 1968 in New York of a heart attack, and his ashes are interred in Salinas.

Seventeen of his works, including The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Cannery Row (1945), The Pearl (1947), and East of Eden (1952), went on to become Hollywood films, and Steinbeck also achieved success as a Hollywood writer, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Story in 1944 for Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 395 reviews
Profile Image for Piyangie.
529 reviews487 followers
October 26, 2022
"We found as we expected that Russian people are people. And as with other people, they are very nice. The ones we met had a hatred of war. They want the same things that all people want: Good lives, increased comforts, security, and peace."

John Steinbeck's 1947 journey to the Soviet Union had one goal. And that is to "do honest reporting, to set down what we saw and heard without editorial comment, without drawing conclusions about things we didn't know sufficiently". So far as humanely possible, that's what he's done. Occasionally, some of Steinbeck's personal views have crept onto his account, but this is to be accepted. No one can do a 100% job of detached, objective reporting.

Steinbeck's account of his journey through the Soviet Union post-war is non-political. It is only a social account based on what he observed. Coupled with his and his photographer friend Robert Capa's own experiences during their stay, this humourous account is an attempt to tell the world that all people are much more the same no matter where in the world they live.

Through his visits to Moscow, Kiev (Ukraine), Stalingrad, and Georgia, Steinbeck together with the aid of Capa, records the lives and living of the ordinary people in Russia in the aftermath of the war. He reports the massive destruction caused by the war, and the people's struggle to live as normally as possible, their attitudes, wishes, and hopes for the future. He compares the people of the different cities, their attitudes, and their lifestyles. He also compares the similarities and the differences between these Russian people and those at home. I was much amused by Steinbeck's comparison of the literary men in both countries: "Although Starlin may say that the writers are the architects of the soul, in America, the writer is not considered the architect of anything, and is only tolerated at all after he is dead and carefully put away for about twenty-five years". Steinbeck explains that this dissimilarity stems from the difference in the system of governance in each country and the peoples' attitude toward their government. "The Russians are taught, and trained, and encouraged to believe that their government is good, that every part of it is good, and that their job is to carry it forward, to back it up in all ways. On the other hand, the deep emotional feeling among Americans and British is that all government is somehow dangerous, that there should be as little government as possible, that any increase in the power of government is bad, and that existing government must be watched constantly, watched and criticized to keep it sharp and on its toes."

While A Russian Journal is mainly a report of his observance of the people in Russia, this hasn't prevented Steinbeck from blending it with his and Capa's personal experiences during their stay. And it hasn't also prevented him from slight criticism on Russian bureaucracy. All these different elements made reading this journal interesting.

I was much impressed by Steinbeck's style of writing this journal. The whole report was done in a humourous tone. Even the most serious facts were recorded with a slight undertone of humour. But the fact is he is not resorted to this style to satirize them but only to make them interesting. That was just incredible! Steinbeck has yet again proved that he is indeed a master of writing art.

This journal, however, is not an in-depth account of the Russian people, nor the Soviet Union as was then. It was just an account of what they had seen and heard. As Steinbeck admits, "it is superficial. How could it be otherwise? We have no conclusions to draw except Russian people are like all other people in the world."
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,459 followers
September 16, 2020
This is a book definitely worth reading, but I wouldn't put it up there with Steinbeck's best.

It has clear prose, spiced with humor, pathos and wonderful descriptions of places and people. But the book is short and much was off limits.

In itself it is amazing that Steinbeck and the famed photographer Robert Capa were even allowed into Russia in 1947, two years after the war and with the Cold War in full swing. Steinbeck was employed as a war correspondent by the New York Herald Tribune and he continued to work for them. The aim of the book was to draw a picture of ordinary Russian people; the focus was not politics.

How well does he capture "the Russian people"? That which Steinbeck tells us and which Capa shows through his photos are interesting but the visit is too brief to give a full picture. Bureaucracy and state restrictions hampered the endeavor. Neither did they plan the trip that well. They flew via Stockholm to Moscow, where no rooms awaited them. Finally, installed first at the Metropol and then later at the Savoy, they seek permission to leave Moscow, to take photos and to talk to people. Who was to sponsor them was even up for grabs. Eventually with papers and permission slips in order they make separate trips from Moscow to Kiev, to Stalingrad/Volgograd and to Georgia visiting both Tiflis/Tbilisi and Batum/Batumi. Each time returning to Moscow to bathe and to sleep, but in reality to drink and to converse with Western correspondents and Russian officials. To go to the Bolshoi. Capa was incessantly fretting over his photos; would they be allowed out? The two were only there a couple of weeks. Yes, they spent time with ordinary Russian people, but the time spent was limited and often restricted.

The book shows vividly the destruction of the Patriotic War. Gifts were given to the City of Stalingrad from foreign nations, but what were needed were artificial limbs, housing and a whole new infrastructure. Each morning in the square outside their hotel window the two saw the Russian people, mostly women, creep out from the cellars, all that remained from before. It is quite a feat to go to work in clean clothes. Women, because the men were crippled or killed. Steinbeck’s writing is sharp, vivid and moving.

Outside Kiev the two men visited collective farms. The people were generous with that which they had. There was laughing and good food and dancing and music, always music and dancing and vodka and brown bread and cucumbers and tomatoes. Not fancy but generous, singing, happy people, hopeful for the future. Curious people, always asking questions and carefully evaluating the given replies. Rarely could Steinbeck or Capa give adequate answers. Do Americans like poetry? Does the state help farmers with equipment, new techniques and advice about experimental seeds? It is the questions posed by the ordinary Russians and then their replies to the answers given that are the most telling. Yet any reader must question whom were they allowed to meet and talk with. Not just anyone!

In Georgia, what the men saw is lyrically depicted. Georgia was never destroyed by the war. Always generous people, dancing and music and food. This section reads almost as a tourist guide. I continually looked at images of places visited on internet.

I wish I had seen Capa’s photos. Only a few are to be found on the web. I listened to the audiobook reasonably well narrated by Richard Poe. He tends to dramatize, but his dramatization does fit the intent of Steinbeck’s lines. You could hear the humor. You could hear the exasperation that intermittently arose between Capa and Steinbeck. Capa would disappear into the bathtub for hours, with his stolen/”borrowed” books. Steinbeck has his own little quirks we learn of too.

I am certainly glad I read this. You have to take it for what it is and be happy for that we have been allowed to glimpse. I would recommend reading the paper version so you see the photos; they are half of the story.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,254 followers
February 6, 2017
Right after WWII people in America were curious about the Soviet Union in a big way. It coincided with a time when author John Steinbeck and world-renowned photographer Robert Capa were at a loss for what to do next. A scheme was hatched up to do a bit of light investigative journalism and see what was up with post-war Russia.

This wasn't political, so much as a social call. Steinbeck and Capa really just wanted to see what was going on in the lives and minds of the people.

They went to Moscow...


And they visited farmers in the provinces...


One thing you'll notice from the above photos (besides the ubiquitous recurrence of Stalin) is the general lack of men. A generation of males had been lost to war and the remaining women were left to carry on.


The people of Moscow came off as cold and officious. Everything needed to be categorized and catalogued. Steinbeck describes one meal in which hours elapsed before food hit the table, not because the cooks were slow. Rather, the paperwork that needed to be filled out and distributed to the proper authorities delayed the kitchen from even beginning.

The country farmers, though less educated, seemed freer and happier, even if they were worked ragged due to a lack of mechanization that had been available to them pre-war. However, they were welcoming and generous.

As it turns out, right after WWII, just about all people in Russia were curious about Americans in a big way and they had many questions for Steinbeck and Capa, so many that at times it seemed the journalists were becoming the story. Those interested in either gentlemen will enjoy some of the slight insights given herein. I've noted in his other autobiographical work that Steinbeck comes off as an impish trickster at times...though his friends might just flat out call him evil. Nonetheless, his sense of fun brings a welcome lightness to the text.

This is not to say the text is particularly heavy. In fact, this is quite a light read. Steinbeck seems to strike a good balance of post-war doom and gloom with hope and promise for a brighter future while relating it all in the easy-going manner of a master storyteller. This may be outdated and not give you an idea of what Russia's like today, but it's a nice sample of a recent historical time and place. Highly recommended!

A Capa and Steinbeck selfie...

(I apologize if not all photos are from this book, as websites like Pinterest have begun to make online photo attribution rather difficult.)
Profile Image for Mike.
306 reviews149 followers
December 22, 2019

I started reading A Russian Journal with a blank slate in terms of my thoughts on John Steinbeck- never read The Grapes of Wrath, never read East of Eden- except knowing vaguely that Steinbeck had been harassed by the FBI for his supposedly leftist/Socialist leanings. It might also be relevant to note that I read it during the first couple of weeks after I'd moved to Russia, admittedly for the nakedly emotional reason that I didn't know anyone there, and thought that a fellow American who'd made the same trip, albeit 70 years previously, would be good company. Of course, time sometimes makes for a larger gulf than geographic distance. Moscow, at least for me, bore an uncanny resemblance to DC (both capitals of countries with...ahem...imperial characteristics, the size and grandeur of the buildings seem to communicate that absolute power resides in man-made institutions, in the systems of government that each country has established...drive oh let's say I-40 from Flagstaff to Vegas however, through the desert, and you get a very different sense of the limitations of civilization). Steinbeck's world, on the other hand, felt more alien. There are plenty of writers of his day who don't strike me as antiquated at all, but there's something about Steinbeck's music that makes it impossible to forget the dislocations of time: Stalin and Truman are alive and in power, the hydrogen bomb hasn't yet been developed, the best way to correspond between Moscow and New York is the post, swing music still seems deliciously decadent, and you can feel rather pleased with yourself when you end a chapter in your book with the phrase "...a man does not drink another man's whisky."

Something that might strike contemporary readers as familiar, however, is the attitude of suspicion and obsessiveness over Russia. That's how Steinbeck describes the atmosphere in the U.S., anyway. At the time he went to Russia, in 1947, the Cold War was just beginning; as he says in the book, he wanted to get away from what he considered partisan bickering and hysteria, and write down only what he saw in the USSR. “In the papers every day”, he writes, “there were thousands of words about Russia.”
What Stalin was thinking about, the plans of the Russian General Staff, the disposition of troops, experiments with atomic weapons and guided missiles, all of this by people who had not been there, and whose sources were not above reproach. And it occurred to us that there were some things that nobody wrote about Russia…What do the people wear there? What do they serve at dinner? Do they have parties? What food is there? How do they make love, and how do they die? What do they talk about? Do they dance, and sing, and play? Do the children go to school?…We wanted to get to the Russian people if we could.
This might have been when I started to notice something weirdly sentimental and childlike about Steinbeck's writing (do they play?), but I can't fault his intention. He makes a point that resonates with my sense today that a lot of the news we get here in the U.S. about the rest of the world is presented in a dramatic context, relevant only insofar as it plays a role in our reality show. Not everything has to be screamingly relevant to be interesting...or maybe a better point is that most of what's presented to us as relevant really isn't, and that with some patience and subtlety we might find the most unexpected and striking relevance in stories of ordinary human experience. I'm with Steinbeck there. And to be sure, his general approach to traveling seems wise:
We knew there would be many things we couldn’t understand, many things we wouldn’t like, many things that would make us uncomfortable. This is always true of a foreign country. But we determined that if there should be criticism, it would be criticism of the thing after seeing it, not before.
He refers to "we" and "us" throughout, by the way, in order to include his partner on the journey, war photographer Robert Capa; it’s clear that Steinbeck wants to mirror in his prose the objectivity that he believes Capa has achieved with his photographs. Capa's most famous photo is The Falling Soldier, taken during the Spanish Civil War, although there's some controversy over whether or not it was staged. Impossible as true objectivity may be, Steinbeck demonstrates an openness to the common people of the USSR, a trait that couldn't have been taken for granted in his time (nor today, for that matter). On this journey, those people are mostly Russians, Ukrainians and Georgians, because Moscow, Stalingrad (now Volgograd), Kyiv, Tiflis (now Tbilisi) and Gori, as well as a few collective farms in Ukraine, are the places the Soviets want Steinbeck and Capa to see. And it’s this quality of curiosity about everyday life that allows Steinbeck to take note of interesting characters like the customs official who inspects his belongings:
The customs man was very polite, and very kind…But, as he proceeded, it became clear to us that he was not looking for anything in particular, he was just interested. He turned over our shining equipment and fingered it lovingly. He lifted out every roll of film but he did nothing about it and he questioned nothing. He just seems to be interested in foreign things…
But it's also this same quality- or at least an adjacent quality, a certain lack of cynicism and skepticism- that prevents Steinbeck from wondering about what might become of this very polite customs official, so kind to foreigners and so interested in foreign things. My guess is nothing good. 

Steinbeck's attempts to be objective inevitably yield interpretations of their own. Sometimes this results in powerful passages that move organically from either observation or background research to interpretation:
[Kyiv] at one time must have been a beautiful city. It is much older than Moscow. It is the mother of Russian cities. Seated on its hill beside the Dnieper, it spreads down into the plain. Its monasteries and churches and fortresses date from the 11th century...now it is a semi-ruin. Every public building, every library, every theater, destroyed, not with gunfire, not through fighting, but with fire and dynamite.

Counting soldiers, there would be many more, but six million out of forty-five million civilians have been killed...Every piece of machinery in the Ukraine has been destroyed or removed, so that now, until more can be made, everything must be done by hand. Every stone and brick of the ruined city must be lifted and carried with the hands, for there are no bulldozers. And while they are rebuilding, the Ukrainians must produce food, for theirs is the great granary of the nation. 

Here in white plaster [in the museum] was a model of the new city. A grandiose, fabulous city to be built of white marble, the lines classical, the buildings huge...the people come through the wreckage...to look at the plaster cities of the future. In Russia it is always the future that is thought of. It is the crops next year, it is the comfort that will come in ten years, it is the clothes that will be made very soon.
"In Russia it is always the future that is thought of" isn't an objective fact of course, it's an impression, but that's fine with me. It's an insightful and poetic passage that shows me Steinbeck was a great observer- at least about certain things. "It is like a religious thing" is also an impression, but a perspicacious one:
Later we went to Red Square, where a queue of people at least a quarter of a mile long stood waiting to go through Lenin’s tomb…All afternoon, and nearly every afternoon, a slow thread of people marches through the tomb to look at the dead face of Lenin in his glass casket…It is like a religious thing, although they would not call it religious.


Incidentally, in 1942, Steinbeck wrote a work of propaganda called The Moon is Down. I've never read it, although one line that sticks out to me on the book's Wikipedia page is "...the text never names the occupying forces as Germans." Not-naming seems to be a trait of propaganda, and was something I noticed in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk as well- no specifics, no real content, just well-choreographed aerial battles, and archetypes of courage on one side vs. archetypes of evil on the other. Likewise, we get some vague glimpses of German POWs in A Russian Journal, hard at work on canals and metro tunnels; Steinbeck doesn't have much sympathy for them, and perhaps understandably so. And to be clear, I don't blame Steinbeck for doing it while the war was going on (Nolan's reductive sentimentality from the vantage of the 21st century is another matter), but I do wonder if it's possible to write propaganda- even for one of the most justified causes in human history- and then simply walk away from it, unchanged as a writer. Take the following passage from A Russian Journal, for example:
In nothing is the difference between the Americans and the Soviets so marked as in the attitude, not only toward writers, but of writers towards their system. For in the Soviet Union the writer’s job is to encourage, to celebrate, to explain, and in every way to carry forward the Soviet system. Whereas in America, and in England, a good writer is the watch-dog of society. His job is to satirize its silliness, to attack its injustices, to stigmatize its faults. And this is the reason that in America neither society nor government is very fond of writers. The two are completely opposite approaches toward literature. And it must be said that in the time of the great Russian writers, of Tolstoi, of Dostoevski, of Turgenev, of Chekhov, and of the early Gorki, the same was true of the Russians. And only time can tell whether the architect of the soul approach to writing can produce as great a literature as the watch-dog of society approach. So far, it must be admitted, the architect school has not produced a great piece of writing.
The most skilled propagandist couldn't have done much better than this unconscionable paragraph. It's not the obliteration of individual expression and thought through torture and mass murder, it's merely...a cultural difference. Granted, Steinbeck almost certainly didn't know just how bad the repression really was, but if he didn't find the idea he expresses here deeply suspicious, he wasn't much of the watchdog he seems to regard himself as existing in the tradition of. A real watchdog would be skeptical of all governments, and wouldn't spare foreign governments out of politeness, or the politically correct dogma that we can't pass judgment on them because they're foreign. Whom does Steinbeck think made the decision that the "job" of Soviet writers is to celebrate their system? Doesn't he sense that the Soviet relationship between writer and government is a version of the American one in which the government has crushed the watchdogs? Steinbeck may have set the artistic parameters that he didn't want to offer interpretation, but he is interpreting, and his attempt to sound fair and objective in this case instead makes him sound naive at best. The passage is also a profound insult to every Soviet writer who had the courage to write the truth about what was happening in their country.

Nor could Stalin have been too displeased with the following paragraph. It’s true that it occasionally yields interesting results for Steinbeck to play dumb (if that's what he's doing) and bend over backwards to be judicious in trying to intuitively explain the phenomena of totalitarianism, but it also makes him sound, again, either naive or insincere:
To Americans, with their fear and hatred of power invested in one man, this is a frightening thing...at public celebrations the pictures of Stalin outgrow every bound of reason. We spoke...to a number of Russians and had several answers. One was that the Russian people had been used to pictures of the czar and the czar's family...another was that the icon is a Russian habit of mind, and this was a kind of an icon. A third, that the Russians love Stalin so much that they want him ever present. A fourth, that Stalin himself does not like this and has asked that it be discontinued. But it seems to us that Stalin's dislike for anything else causes its removal...
But Steinbeck either fails to acknowledge or doesn't realize that any Soviet citizen who valued their health would have stayed far away from him, or offered only the blandest of cliches. Whether he has any inkling of this or not, he proceeds as if he doesn't, and I think that's what ultimately makes his approach untenable. In his effort to get away from political bickering, he forgets that every aspect of the society he's encountering is informed by politics and power. The answers that he receives from people are not representative of their uncensored, individual thoughts (as Orwell would suggest a couple of years later in 1984, one of the ultimate goals of a totalitarian society is to eliminate not just individual expression but individual thought)- they're perverted by the terror of Soviet life. In one of his last interviews, Anthony Bourdain told a story about eating with a man from Laos who was missing both his legs. When Bourdain asked him what had happened, the man told him that when he was younger he'd stepped on unexploded American ordinance...and just like that, a conversation about something seemingly individual had become a conversation about something seemingly world-historical. It's hard to keep these concepts separate for very long at all, and when we try, the results tend to be grotesque.

Furthermore, while it's commendable that Steinbeck wants to serve as a corrective to what he calls "Moscowitis" and what we now know became McCarthyism, he fails to make a crucial distinction. He fails to understand that writing about the Soviet government’s atrocities is not mutually exclusive with his appreciation of the Soviet people- it would in fact conceivably be to their benefit, at least in the court of public opinion, and this is because they are in the majority not Stalin’s accomplices but his victims

(Review continued in comment #1, below)
Profile Image for Steven R. Kraaijeveld.
502 reviews1,761 followers
January 9, 2018
Steinbeck met photographer Robert Capa and together they decided to take a trip to the Soviet Union. They sought to discover the people of the Soviet Union not in the way that the popular, prejudiced, propaganda-heavy media had done and were doing (this was right at the cusp of the Cold War), but through their own eyes—to portray the truth of how ordinary people live, as Steinbeck puts it. In A Russian Journal, published in 1948, Steinbeck recounts, chronologically, his trip with Capa and the various people and places they encountered as they made their way through the Soviet Union—from Moscow to Kiev, and from Stalingrad to Georgia. The result is not the 'truth', which is, of course, impossible, but at least an honest and fair account of both the bad and the good among the Russians, the latter being significantly more numerous and the first being no worse than what one may find among Americans. This conclusion is ultimately reached through Steinbeck's storytelling—fortified and made more compelling by his idiosyncratic wit and humor—as well as through the inclusion of Capa's wonderful photographs.
Profile Image for Benjamin.
236 reviews7 followers
April 20, 2012
Two things:

a) I wish Penguin would've gotten hold of some more hi-res versions of Capa's photos. You can find some of them at Magnum's online collection, and they're much better quality than the images in the book.

b) I wish Steinbeck had published an addendum to this journal after Khrushchev's Secret Speech exposing Stalin's crimes -- I know JS wasn't trying to be political or anything, but I would've been interested to see his interpretation of that time period with retrospective knowledge.

That said, I can't tell you how much I love Steinbeck. He's so perceptive and honest and funny. And powerfully emotive when the occasion calls for it. But mostly, his point is that people are people all over the world and deserve all the respect and dignity that we can afford, at all times, no matter who they are. Bums, communists, workers, socialites, farmers, migrants, orphans, they should live as human beings. And he's not afraid to say as much to people who don't let them do so. Or to shame them for it.

I love you, John Steinbeck.
Profile Image for Jacob Overmark.
206 reviews9 followers
September 26, 2020
One of the books I deliberately took in in small doses ... I just did not want it to end!

Not because it was a "Steinbeck classic", in style it is quite far from his masterpiece novels, but because Steinbeck works his way around the topic in an impressible humble way.

"We will report only what we see and hear" was the objective and indeed this is mostly the case.
In the beginning of the Cold War era when most information was based on highly biased rumors from both sides of the Iron Curtain, Steinbeck and Capa went on a reporting tour to see for themselves and report just what they saw, document it with Capa´s photos and share their experience with the public.

What they saw - apart from the strict communist party regulations - was the daily life life of the Russian people. People with the same needs and wants as an American, and foremost a strong inclination to "No More War".
They met the hospitality and the red tape, the bureaucracy and the collective farms and everything in between - and they provided me with a happy revisit to a Georgia not so different from what I have experienced myself.

Profile Image for Katya.
268 reviews
November 14, 2022
"Andávamos deprimidos, não tanto com as notícias como com a forma como eram dadas. Porque as notícias já não são notícias, pelo menos aquelas que atraem mais atenção. As notícias transformaram-se em matéria de opinião especializada. Um homem sentado a uma secretária em Washington ou Nova Iorque lê os telegramas das agências e reformula-os de acordo com o seu próprio quadro mental e dá-lhes um título. Aquilo que muitas vezes lemos como notícia não é mais do que a opinião de um entre meia dúzia de especialistas sobre o que essa notícia significa."

Que Steinbeck é um grande escritor, é algo de que ninguém duvida. Com este seu Diário Russo confirma-se que esse grande escritor tem uma veia de jornalista - embora tenha também uma aversão ao jornalismo convencional e contemporâneo, pelo que acaba por fazer uma reportagem que se lê mais como um romance do que qualquer outra coisa.
O seu mote, de dar a conhecer aquilo que os olhos vêem, mais do que aquilo que a cabeça processa após esse momento é genuíno, acredito, embora impraticável na sua totalidade. Mas a premissa básica foi cumprida: percorrer terras russas e olhar às pessoas que as habitam; procurar perceber quem é o povo russo. Claro que pelo caminho é inevitável que se cruze e acabe por descrever aquela que era a máquina burocrática soviética (tão semelhante a outras máquinas burocráticas - todas inerentes a regimes conservadores e com certa queda para as ditaduras e os fascismos); é inevitável que denuncie a prepotência do regime; mas o seu foco não está nunca aí.
Steinbeck perde-se nas descrições da terra e das gentes, da hospitalidade de russos, ucranianos, georgianos - come e bebe a sua conta, festeja como se não houvesse amanhã e dá a conhecer toda uma faceta humana do povo, sem [pre]conceitos expressos.

"O mais difícil do mundo para qualquer pessoa é provavelmente a simples observação e aceitação daquilo que acontece. Deformamos sempre as nossas imagens com as nossas expectativas, esperanças ou receios."

O seu sentido de humor típico polvilha aqui e ali todo o texto, proporcionando momentos de comic relief que ajudam a suportar o retrato de um país devastado pela guerra, uma população a cicatrizar da barbárie a que "foi" duramente sujeita. Esse humor ajuda o leitor a tragar imagens duras, muito duras, do pós-Guerra e consequente Cortina de Ferro: os seus efeitos naquela que é a personalidade de uma nação, os seus efeitos na vida de cada indivíduo.

"À tarde atravessámos a praça e fomos até um pequeno parque perto do rio e aí, debaixo de um grande obelisco de pedra, havia um jardim de flores vermelhas, e debaixo do jardim estava sepultado um grande número de defensores de Estalinegrado. Havia pouca gente no parque, mas estava uma mulher sentada num banco e um rapazinho de cinco ou seis anos de pé encostado à vedação, a olhar para as flores. Esteve ali tanto tempo que nós dissemos a Chmarski que queríamos falar com ele.
Chmarski perguntou-lhe em russo: «Que estás aqui a fazer?» E o rapazinho, sem sentimentalismo, com uma voz natural, disse: «Vim visitar o meu pai. Venho vê-lo todas as noites.»
Sem dramatismo, sem sentimentalismo, era uma simples constatação de facto, e a mulher sentada no banco levantou os olhos, confirmou com a abeça e sorriu. E pouco depois ela e o rapazinho atravessaram o parque de regresso à cidade em ruínas."

Lamentavelmente, claro, muito fica por dizer e mostrar. Não só o trabalho é sintético por vontade dos autores, como mais sintético se torna por imposição política - ficam de fora as imagens mais cruas, de espécie literária ou outra, dos estropiados, dos presos de guerra, dos famintos, e da reconstrução e "limpeza" operada pelo regime estalinista.

"(...)na União Soviética, o papel do escritor é estimular, glorificar, explicar e de todas as formas possíveis promover o sistema político soviético. Ao passo que na América, e na Inglaterra, um bom escritor é o cão de guarda da sociedade. O seu papel é satirizar-lhe os desconchavos, atacar-lhe as injustiças, estigmatizar-lhe as falhas. E é por isso que, na América, nem a sociedade nem o governo simpatizam muito com os escritores. São duas formas diametralmente opostas de encarar a literatura. E convém dizer que, no tempo dos grandes escritores russos, de Tolstói, de Dostoievski, de Turguénev, de Tchékhov e do jovem Gorki, acontecia o mesmo com os russos."

É o diário possível, e satisfatoriamente imparcial, por parte de um escritor com notórias preocupações sociais e de um fotógrafo destemido, exigente e curiosamente trágico - uma excelente combinação de forças.

"E pronto. Era mais ao menos isto que queríamos ver. Verificámos, como tínhamos suspeitado, que os russos são pessoas, e, como pessoas que são, são muito simpáticos. Aqueles com quem falámos odiavam a guerra, queriam o mesmo que todas as pessoas querem - boas vidas, mais conforto, segurança e paz.
Sabemos que este diário não vai agradar à esquerda ortodoxa nem á direita boçal. A primeira vai dizer que ele é anti-russo, a segunda que pró-russo. Superficial é, sem dúvida, e não podia ser de outra maneira. Não temos conclusões a tirar, a não ser que o povo russo é como todos os outros povos do mundo. Alguns são certamente maus, mas na sua grande maioria são muito boas pessoas."
Profile Image for Paolo.
146 reviews150 followers
January 1, 2021
Ultimissima lettura del 2020 ed in un certo senso emblematica e salutifera.
John Steinbeck e Robert Capa si recano per un reportage nella Russia dell'immediato dopoguerra (siamo nel 1947).
Per una fortunata combinazione non vengono considerati cronisti, ma incaricati di uno "scambio culturale" e così sono più liberi di spaziare nell'Unione Sovietica per due mesi, documentando la vita a Mosca, nelle campagne ucraine, nella fertile Georgia. E soprattutto Stalingrado !
Vengono descritte (e fotografate) la Russia in cui evidenti sono le devastazioni della guerra e la sua gente che ha sofferto lutti e privazioni, ma la cui dignità e intatta, grande l'entusiasmo con cui lavora alla ricostruzione e sconfinata la fiducia in un futuro migliore.
Non c'è pressochè alcuna pretesa letteraria e la scrittura è elementare in modo quasi disarmante, ma proprio per questo 5 stelle: ci si immagina la famiglia Joad che incontra i superstiti di Vita e Destino e condivide con loro la grandezza degli esseri umani che lottano per la propria sopravvivenza e la propria dignità.
Non si può non guardare avanti, buon 2021 a tutti.
Profile Image for Andrei Tamaş.
438 reviews292 followers
October 16, 2016
John Steinbeck, una dintre cele mai proeminente figuri ale literaturii americane din secolul XX, este unul dintre scriitorii care, prin însuși felul lor de a fi, iau atitudine împotriva pragmatismului caracteristic școlii de literatură din care au făcut parte. De aceea, Robert Capa, fotograful care l-a însoțit în călătoria întreprinsă în Uniunea Sovietică în anii de după cel de-al Doilea Război Mondial, afirma că, de fapt, Steinbeck ’’este un sentimental ascuns în propria cochilie’’.
Asa-intitulatul Jurnal rusesc prezintă, panoramic, viața din Uniunea Sovietică, existența aceea ’’a lucrurilor mici’’ despre care vorbea Tolstoi în ’’Război și pace’’, atunci când încerca să caracterizeze poporul rus. Deși se observă intenția clară a autorului de a nu surprinde aspecte din viața politică, este -și pe drept cuvânt!- absolut imposibil să nu sesizezi un portret al lui Stalin de 100x50 metri ancorat la fiecare colț de stradă.
Unul dintre cele mai pregnante aspecte care se impun încă de la început este reprezentat de contrastul tragic dintre stilul de viață american și sobrietatea impusă de sovietici cetățenilor (aparent, un cod de conduită bine pus la punct): ’’Era ceva ce nu ținea neapărat de limbaj, ci de traducerea dintr-un mod de gândire în altul’’. Totuși, viața rușilor de sub bocancul comunismului nu se rezumă doar la Moscova (așa cum am fost deprinși a vedea lucrurile în urma citirii studiilor de specialitate), tot ceea ce este în afara capitalei păstrându-și nuanța aceea rudimentară cu care ne-am obișnuit la Gogol (de asemenea, Kievul și împrejurimile reprezinta un alt obiectiv căruia autorul îi dedică un întreg capitol).
Cea mai... literară (să-i spunem așa!) parte a jurnalului este reprezentată de descrierea poporului georgian: ’’Vorbeau despre georgieni ca despre niște supraoameni - mari băutori, mari dansatori, mari cântăreți, mari iubăreți și muncitori de frunte. Chiar începuserăm să credem că majoritatea rușilor speră că dacă vor duce un trai virtuos vor ajunge nu în paradis, ci în Georgia’’. Dacă aș putea alege acum o destinație de vacanță, aceea ar fi, fără șovăire, Georgia. Ce frumos e numai să-ți imaginezi confluența culturii occidentale cu cea orientală, darmite să te gândești că binețea poporului georgian este asemănătoare cu pacea pe care o emană Tibetul...
De asemenea, jurnalul a fost scris în preajma anului 1947, când Uniunea Sovietică încă nu își revenise după război, însă cu toate acestea, întreaga populație sovietică (sub ochii aparent divini ai conducătorilor săi), muncește pentru ca ziua de mâine să fie mai bună. Episoadele descrise în acest sens sunt numeroase, autorul afirmând chiar că ’’dacă a existat vreodată un popor care să-și tragă energia din speranță, acela e poporul rus.’’
Cu toate că am afirmat faptul că scriitorul care a fost distins cu premiul Nobel pentru literatură a încercat să se țină departe de politizarea scrierii, sunt fragmente care condamna subtil regimul sovietic. De pildă, în Ucraina, la vederea ’’americanilor’’, un copil a alergat spre mama lui strigând: ’’Mamă, mamă, americanii ăștia sunt oameni ca noi’’, iar nervii lui Robert Capa, însoțitorul fotograf al scriitorului, sunt surprinși în scena în care trebuia sa ofere spre cenzurare rolfilmele pe care le făcuse: ’’Jumătate din timp Capa a pus la cale o contrarevoluție, în caz că se alegea praful de filmele lui, iar în cealaltă jumătate de timp s-a gândit cum să se sinucidă.’’
În fine, opera are o uriașă valoare morală, motiv care a tras greu, cred eu, la acordarea Nobelului în 1962: condamnă, atât din perspectiva scriitorului american, cât și din aceea a poporului sovietic, orice forma a războiului, îndemnând la înfrățirea popoarelor.

Andrei Tamaș, 16 octombrie 2016
Profile Image for Daria.
148 reviews31 followers
January 13, 2021
Reading A Russian Journal reminded me of why I used to love Steinbeck’s writing so much, and that I still do.

There is so much humor in this book, and honest curiosity, and compassion, and candor. I really looked forward to see how one of my favorite places in the world would look like through the eyes of one of my favorites writers, and I was not disappointed.
Profile Image for Arupratan.
149 reviews158 followers
September 8, 2023
দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধের ঠিক পরেই গোটা রাশিয়াসহ পূর্ব ইউরোপ জুড়ে চালু হয়েছিল রাষ্ট্রের দ্বারা সার্বিক পুলিশি নজরদারির ব্যবস্থা। দেশের জনসাধারণের দৈনন্দিন জীবনকে যেমন কড়া পাহারায় রাখা হয়েছিল, বাইরের দুনিয়ার থেকেও নিজেদের আড়াল করে রেখেছিল রাশিয়া এবং রাশিয়াসংলগ্ন দেশগুলো। মূলত মহামানব জোসেফ স্ট্যালিনের নেতৃত্বে শুরু হয়েছিল ঘোমটার তলায় এই খ্যামটা নৃত্য। আরেকজন মহামানব উইনস্টন চার্চিল (জোসেফের পুরাতন বন্ধু) রাশিয়ার এই ঢাক ঢাক গুড় গুড় স্বভাবের নামকরণ করেছিলেন : "আয়রন কার্টেন", অর্থাৎ লোহার তৈরি যবনিকা। রতনে রতন চেনে, শুয়োরে চেনে কচু।

এই বিশাল অঞ্চলের মানুষ এবং সমাজব্যবস্থার ব্যাপারে সারা বিশ্বের মানুষ প্রায় কিছুই জানতে পারছিল না। সত্যি কথার পাশাপাশি ছড়িয়ে পড়েছিল হরেক রকম গুজব। বইয়ের শুরুতেই জন স্টাইনবেক শপথ করে নিয়েছিলেন, তিনি সোভিয়েত দেশে যেতে চান প্রকৃত অবস্থা পর্যবেক্ষণ করতে। তিনি লিখেছেন, নিজের চোখে যা দেখবো তাই লিখবো। কিন্তু কথা দিয়ে তিনি কথা রাখতে পারেননি। শুরুর দিকে বিনয়ী হওয়ার চেষ্টা করেছেন, কিন্তু বই যত এগিয়েছে ধীরে ধীরে খসে পড়েছে বিনয়ের মুখোশ। সূক্ষ্ম তাচ্ছিল্যের সুর ঢুকে পড়েছে বর্ণনায়। সরাসরি প্রকাশ করা দম্ভের চেয়ে ছদ্ম-বিনয় বেশি অস্বস্তিকর। "সকল দেশের রানি সে যে মোদের আমেরিকা" গানটির প্রভাব থেকে মুক্ত হতে পারেননি জন স্টাইনবেকের মতো মানবতাবাদী সাহিত্যিকও!

অনেক কিছু জানতে পেরেছি যদিও। মস্কো-লেলিনগ্রাদ কেন্দ্রিক প্রচলিত ভ্রমণরীতির বাইরে বেরিয়ে তিনি ঘুরতে গেছেন ইউক্রেন এবং জর্জিয়াতে। দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধের ঠিক পর���ই এইসব দেশের পরিস্থিতির বিবরণ কোনো বইতে পাইনি আগে। স্টাইনবেকের বর্ণনার চেয়েও আমার কাছে বেশি ভালো লেগেছে বইয়ের পৃষ্ঠায় মুদ্রিত বিখ্যাত ফটোগ্রাফার রবার্ট কাপা-র তোলা অজস্র সাদাকালো ছবি। প্রসঙ্গত, রাশিয়া ভ্রমণে স্টাইনবেকের সঙ্গী ছিলেন স্বয়ং কাপা।

শব্দের চেয়ে ছবির শক্তি বেশি— এই কথাটায়, পুরোপুরি না হলেও, কিছুটা সত্যতা আছে! স্টাইনবেকের খোঁচা-দেওয়া গদ্যের চেয়ে কাপা-র ছবি দে���ে রাশিয়াকে বেশি ভালো চিনতে পেরেছি আমি। বইটি লেখা হয়েছে ১৯৪৭ সালে। রাশিয়ার মানুষের সর্বনাশের সাতকাহন তখন সবে শুরু হয়েছে, যা শেষ হতে বাকি আরো পাঁচ দশক! এবং ঠান্ডা যুদ্ধ শেষ হতে হতে, দেশের জনগণের উপর রাশিয়ার এই নজরদারির স্বভাব আয়ত্ব করে ফেলবে আমেরিকা নিজেও— নজরদারিকে নিয়ে যাবে শিল্পের উচ্চতায়!

(জর্জিয়ার চা বাগান, আলোকচিত্রী - রবার্ট কাপা)
Profile Image for Don Gagnon.
36 reviews31 followers
February 2, 2020
Words and Images

Steinbeck’s “A Russian Journal,” first published in April 1948, was in a significant way similar to “The Log from the Sea of Cortez,” originally published three years later, in 1951--both books were collaborative efforts. Whereas Cortez was a collaboration between a journalist and a scientist, the earlier Russian adventure was that of writer and photographer. Although an eyewitness account of journalist Steinbeck’s and photographer Capa’s travels through Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia at the cusp of the Cold War, “A Russian Journal” is a work of art and literature, beautifully written and wonderfully documented with images of historical significance and everyday life. It is educational, fun, and inspiring. I enjoyed comparing Capa’s photos and Steinbeck’s descriptions of the photos. All of the real people in the book were described with such skill by Steinbeck, that they resembled well developed characters from a novel. Wherever Steinbeck journeyed, he captured the spirit of the times and the spirit of place brilliantly. After I finished reading the book, I felt like I had been to all the places and met all the people.
Profile Image for Louise.
1,672 reviews301 followers
January 1, 2015

Nobel Prize winning John Steinbeck and his photographer friend visit Moscow, the Ukraine, (what was then) Stalingrad, and Georgia in 1947. They stick to their mission which is to find out about everyday people: “What do people wear there? What do they serve for dinner? Do they have parties? ….” They did not find out about how they make love or how they die (also in the mission). They are not interested in important people, politics or 5 year plans.

Destruction and the remnants of war are all around. In Moscow, there is an event where people congregate to inspect the military equipment the Germans left behind. In Stalingrad people are living in the rubble. They see German POWs at work rebuilding cities. Steinbeck notes the differences in cities that have been bombed or sieged in battle.

At a Ukraine collective farm, they eat a hearty breakfast and observe the team work in the fields. With so many men lost or wounded in war, the women shoulder this burden. It is hard to believe their cheerfulness as described by Steinbeck. There is simple entertainment in the evening and beautiful places to swim. Georgia has been relatively unscathed by the war and Georgians have adopted Ukrainian orphans.

They are feted as important guests everywhere. The meetings of writers’ groups sound deadly as 20 page manuscripts are read aloud ...and then the translation is read! There is a so much food and drinking, the authors are frequently sick/hung over. Steinbeck gets so he can’t handle vodka.

Airports are frustrating. The episode in leaving Georgia is only funny when the story is told... must have been awful to live through.

While Stalin’s portraits abound this seems to be an extreme bureaucracy and more than a police state. People speak to them freely and no one takes them aside to complain about the government. Outside of Moscow, besides being with their translator/guide/minder, there is no hint of their being watched. All the photos show well fed people, often well dressed and usually happy, but these were probably self-censored since Capa got all his photos back.

On the minus side, the prose, like most of the 1950’s travel literature, is stilted. For a short book, too much space is devoted to the strained relations between the writer and the photographer, and the two of them with their Russian minder. While the pictures are not labeled, they are placed appropriately. Sometimes it is hard to know what you are looking at. For instance the photo on p. 34 must be of Lenin Hills, but the vista hardly looks like Moscow which the Hills are said to overlook; the photo on p. 43 appears to be a fashion show or maybe a quality control examination of clothing. Other photos, such as the 4 portraits on 78-79 would be better in an art gallery than a travel book.

This book fills an important niche because so little exists on daily life in Russia just after the devastation of WW2. Like many plans, the idea originated in a bar by two artists with nothing to do, but unlike most bar-hatched ideas, this one was followed up on.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,989 reviews16 followers
December 5, 2015

Description: Just after the iron curtain fell on Eastern Europe John Steinbeck and acclaimed war photographer, Robert Capa ventured into the Soviet Union to report for the New York Herald Tribune. This rare opportunity took the famous travellers not only to Moscow and Stalingrad - now Volgograd - but through the countryside of the Ukraine and the Caucasus. A RUSSIAN JOURNAL is the distillation of their journey and remains a remarkable memoir and unique historical document. Steinbeck and Capa recorded the grim realities of factory workers, government clerks, and peasants, as they emerged from the rubble of World War II. This is an intimate glimpses of two artists at the height of their powers, answering their need to document human struggle.

oooh, I am So going to buck the trend here - he(Steinbeck) offed the responsibility of reporting anything worthwhile here: some have attributed the woolly approach to the fact that he and his wife were having problems, others state that it was the strict guidelines laid down by the soviets. I just see it as a wasted journey. The two1/2 stars reflect the 'at least he got there' dictum.

4* Of Mice and Men
5* East of Eden
4* The Grapes of Wrath
1* The Pearl
4* Cannery Row
2* The Red Pony
4* The Moon is Down
CR The Russian Journey
Profile Image for Numidica.
386 reviews8 followers
October 30, 2018
I loved this book about Steinbeck's trip through Russia after WW2, and what he saw. It was one of the last trips through Russia by a writer or journalist before the Cold War got going in earnest.
Profile Image for Özgür.
144 reviews156 followers
September 2, 2023
Vaat ettiğini veren bir kitap olmuş, gördüğünü anlatmış Steinbeck.
Savaşın insanlar ve kent üzerindeki etkisini, yıkıcılığını anlattığı kısımlar en çok ilgimi çeken yerler oldu.
Steinbeck'in Türkiye ve Türklere dair önyargısını anlamadım.
Profile Image for plainzt .
569 reviews61 followers
June 18, 2023
This book is a recording of Robert Capa and John Steinbeck's journalistic trip to Russia in 1948. Their goal, as stated in the book, was to simply and impartially examine "a Russian story". I think they were successful in this aspect. Just as it was said in the introduction "we should read for what it is, not for what it fails to do."

The qualities of Steinbeck's writing that have been characterized as "a supple narrative style, a versatility of subject matter, and an almost mystical sympathy for the common human being" are in full force in this book. It was a quite pleasant read for me even though I don't like nonfiction travel books.

The reason I wanted to read this work was to learn that some details from Steinbeck's work were used in Julian Barnes' book, The Noise of Time without mentioning him. The Noise of Time will be the book I read after this.
Profile Image for Stef Rozitis.
1,506 reviews71 followers
May 1, 2020
A good friend loaned me this book, insisting that I read it because it was a favourite of hers. I hope she does not read this review because I appreciate her friendship and intelligence and have no desire to cast stones at one of her sacred things. But when I read a book I do review it here and I may not be thorough, polished or even particularly interesting in my reviews but I am honest. My honesty has bias, I write about what I like and what I want to read and people are free to disagree…but this friend in particular I hope will not read this review.

“we spoke to businesswomen, actresses, students” claims Steinbeck toward the end of the book (p 207). To what end? asks the reader since the book is singularly free from any female perspective. We see Steinbeck and Capa sitting down to meals with men, listening to speeches by men, travelling with men, sending presents to men, stealing books from men, playing darts with men. Women appear as beautiful, or tragically under-ornamented and as good cooks. They have husbands who speak for them or they are loose women but dismissed for not being beautiful. Steinbeck and Capa have escaped from their wives and their domestic spheres to be in cosy relationships with men, consumers of female beauty and domestic labour.

I suppose this is why I avoid reading male writers these days, that when they represent women, they represent them for the heterosexual male gaze or from the point of view of catering to male agendas and make “needs”. They are depicted as wanting to be this, to be beautiful and nurturing and taking pride in their servitude. Strangely enough real women are not that way.

I had myriad issues with this book- in particular the American tone of superiority (even when humble bragging) and the toxic masculinities in it. The idea that this book goes below the surface to show some common-place shared humanity is a romantic one but not one that came across to me in the 212 pages of bullying, overeating, lecherous gazing, mocking and othering. I get that Steinbeck and Capa are seen as super-stars of their world (American literature and photography of the early C20th) but all I can say is any world that fetes them makes no space for the likes of me.

I feel unrepentant about my privileging of female writers in my own recreational reading.
Profile Image for Maria.
237 reviews43 followers
March 14, 2014
Дълго търсих тази книга, по непонятни за мен причини не е преиздавана и съвсем логично и изчерпана по всички познати канали. Исках да я прочета, защото обичам Стайнбек и досега не ме е разочаровал. Т.е. исках да я прочета като колекционер и почитател. Но я намерих точно в период, в който актуалните новини са много сходни с тези от началото на Студената война. И може би съвсем естествено всичко написано ми се стори твърде съвременно. Странно и плашещо е колко малко се е развил светът в някои отношения за последните близо 70 години. Не мога да преценя до колко заплахата за война в момента е реална, тъй като новините са всичко друго, но не и обективно отразяване на фактите. Днес много повече, отколкото през 1947 година новините са мнението на някой за нещата. Но съм почти напълно сигурна, че обикновените хора не искат война – така както не искат война героите от репортажа на Стайнбек. Нито руснаците, нито обикновените американци.
Това, което най-много ми хареса в „Руски дневник” е въздържанието от коментар и оценка от страна на Стайнбек. Харесвам го много като писател, след тази книга започвам да го харесвам и като човек. Не търси сензация, не търси конфронтация на база политически възгледи, не търси осъждане на начина на живот на руснаците. Дори нещата, които не разбира и са му напълно чужди като американец – култа към личността на Сталин, безрезервната вяра в мъдростта на политиците, ролята на писателите като „архитекти на руската душа” – не ги критикува, а се опитва да ги обясни от гледна точка на руския начин на мислене. Приема този начина на мислене без да го осъжда, дори не го коментира. Колко хора могат да се похвалят с подобна толерантност? Особено в наши дни – струва ми се почти невъзможно. Сигурно затова на моменти книгата ми идваше малко наивна. Стайнбек се интересува от хората, как живеят всеки ден, на какво се радват, какво ги вълнува, но не иска да намесва политиката и пропагандата, макар че голяма част от живота е бил пропит и дирижиран именно от тези фактори. Лично аз се радвам, че е написал репортажа си точно по този начин и се е стоял настрана от глупостите.
На места се смях с глас – начинът, по който описва отношенията си с Капа, със Суийт Джо, Суийт Лана, Г-н Хмарски и неговият гремлин са много забавни. На места ме заболя до сълзи – сцените от Киев и Сталинград, особено лудото момиче. Но всичко е написано с такава доброта и топлота, че няма как да е тъжно задълго. Може би не си даваме сметка през какво са преминали руснаците, за да възстановят страната си, колко труд и лишения им е струвало. За наше щастие войната е останала далеч в миналото. Но не бива да се забравя, а книги като тази ни напомнят.
За огромно мое съжаление снимките на Капа са с отвратително качество в това издание. Освен размазани черни петна, почти нищо друго не се вижда. А съм сигурна, че си заслужават.
Profile Image for AmberBug com*.
463 reviews105 followers
September 8, 2015

Overall a good book. Steinbeck and Capa have a great chemistry going on that flows throughout their travels. Robert Capa (the photographer) writes a small chapter of his disgust and annoyance (more of a rant in form of a letter). It sheds some light and humor on the trip and gives a perspective different from Steinbeck. I enjoyed the dynamic between the writer and the photographer and the styles of personality that shine through while traveling in such a drastic difference of culture. They clashed, worked together and bonded.

The information gathered is unlike any other, being more of a human nature. More of a documentation viewing the life of the Russian people, not the politics. Pieces of it bored me and I found myself dragging but as I was dragging I found my interest being perked in the next section with something just as interesting. This made me easily like the book, writing and content. The bits that were dull were dreadfully dull but the interesting bits are more then enough to make up for it.

Steinbeck does a wonderful job telling the story with a varied eye. I believe this is why I find myself on this roller coaster, he makes sure there is something for everyone and doesn't miss a beat on anything he sees or experiences. It is a very thorough account of the travels. The photographs alone tell a wonderful tale and aid in the story, putting you right there and keeping you wondering about the life and times of the Russian people after the war.

Some of my favorite bits were about the obsession the Russians have over soccer (as in most Europeans). They have a great passion for the game. Point in case:
"The only really heated argument we heard during our stay in Russia concerned Soccer". I also particularly liked the parts about Georgia and the Georgians and I now find myself wanting to visit that part of the country very badly. Not to forget that I now have a desperate need to visit and try all the food that he writes about. Yum!
Profile Image for Jean.
1,728 reviews751 followers
December 4, 2014
I thought I had read all of John Steinbeck’s works needless to say; I was surprised when I came across this book published in 1948. I had never heard of it.

Steinbeck and Robert Capa, photographer, embarked on a six week Soviet Union tour during the early stages of the Cold War era. They visited Soviet Georgia, Moscow, Stalingrad, and Kiev. The report they created on life under Joseph Stalin’s command, is a highly valuable historical document.
The people portrayed in their literary and photographic archive, are seen living in totally different conditions from those in the West. They were rebuilding a war torn country with the use of only primitive tools as the Germans destroyed all mechanized equipment as they pulled out of Russia. Steinbeck and Capa tried to avoid meeting officials and ministers, but to find time to travel across the cities to speak to people and to understand the way they were living. They tried for honest reporting without drawing conclusions.

The book sort of reminds me of “Travels with Charley” because it is a non-fiction travel memoir. Steinbeck was a great observer of life, and characters. He wrote of the Russian people with great respect. Steinbeck writes very well about the humor in situations, like the nightmares of bureaucracy and the difficulties of travel. Great book and a must read for those interested in history or just a good Steinbeck story. Richard Poe narrated the book.
Profile Image for Cams.
281 reviews9 followers
July 30, 2021
I was a student of Russian language and literature in the 90s and spent some time in the former Soviet Union. I'm a big fan of John Steinbeck's novels and am surprised that it took me so long to read this.

Steinbeck and his friend, photographer Robert Capa had a project to enter the Soviet Union to document and photograph the lives of the ordinary Russian people. It's basically a slice of life of the time and documents very well not only how Russian, Ukrainian and Georgian people live, but also the huge amounts of ridiculous bureaucracy of the Soviet machine.

One scene that stands out is the description of how long it takes from ordering a meal in a restaurant to having that meal arrive at your table.

There is some good comparative writing about the difference between the cult of personality status of the Soviet Union versus the US presidential system. The esteem in which Stalin was held whilst he was in office is quite incredible and almost impossible for a non-native to comprehend.

As Steinbeck states in his monologues, he's not there to present the information in any particular way, he's just there to present the information, and this he manages to pull off very successfully.

455 reviews7 followers
August 2, 2013
Steinbeck and famous photographer Capa take a surprising trip through cold war Russia in 1948. Steinbeck said he wanted to know what the life of a Russian was like; what they wore, ate, vacationed, worked on, cared about and anything else connected with their day to day existence. I was surprised they were even allowed in at all but Steinbeck happened to get his papers signed by a Russian who enjoyed literature and believed Steinbeck when he said he wasn't political, didn't have any kind of agenda and just wanted to tell the story of what he saw and experienced. Steinbeck writes in a precise, stripped down fashion that lets your mind fill in the details. As a history major whose emphasis was European History, I found this book to be fascinating and really informative. I was shocked I had never heard of this book but apparently, it's been out of print. It's a quick read.

P.S. I was shocked because I thought I had read everything Steinbeck had written. Then I got another shock when I saw how many books of his I haven't read. It's always disappointing when we find out how smart and well-read we really aren't. Phooey!
Profile Image for Sarah.
365 reviews36 followers
February 13, 2016
From 1947, before anyone knew if the Cold War would stick, though relations were tense. They are there for the 800th anniversary of the founding of Moscow:

Coincidentally (or not) I have this week been doing Animal Farm with a class, reading The Tsar of Love and Techno, and listening to the TMS lectures on the Cold War, and this all nestles together satisfactorily. The Russian Journal incidentally would make good supplementary reading to support a study of Animal Farm. I'm giving my class this:

Being the guests of Voks, we walked through the public waiting-room and into a side room where there was a dining table, some couches, and comfortable chairs. And there, under the stern eye of a painted Stalin, we drank strong tea until our plane was called.

In the large oil portrait of Stalin on the wall, he was dressed in military uniform and wearing all his decorations, and they are very many. At his throat the Gold Star, which is the highest decoration of Soviet Socialist Labor. On his left breast, highest up, the most coveted award of all, the Gold Star of a Hero of the Soviet Union, which corresponds to our Congressional Medal of Honor. Below that, a row of campaign medals, which indicate what actions he has been in. And on his right breast, a number of gold and red enamel stars. Instead of theater ribbons such as our troops wear, a medal is issued for each great engagement of the Soviet Army: Stalingrad, Moscow, Rostov, and so forth, and Stalin wears them all. As marshal of the Soviet armies he directed them all.

Here we may as well discuss something which bothers most Americans. Nothing in the Soviet Union goes on outside the vision of the plaster, bronze, painted, or embroidered eye of Stalin. His portrait hangs not only in every museum, but in every room of every museum. His statue marches in front of all public buildings. His bust is in front of all airports, railroad stations, bus stations. His bust is also in all schoolrooms, and his portrait is often directly behind his bust. In parks he sits on a plaster bench, discussing problems with Lenin. His picture in needlework is undertaken by the students of schools. The stores sell millions and millions of his face, and every house has at least one picture of him. Surely the painting and modeling, the casting, the forging, and the embroidering of Stalin must be one of the great industries of the Soviet Union. He is everywhere, he sees everything.

To Americans, with their fear and hatred of power invested in one man, and of perpetuation of power, this is a frightening thing and a distasteful one. At public celebrations the pictures of Stalin outgrow every bound of reason. They may be eight stories high and fifty feet wide. Every public building carries monster portraits of him.

We spoke of this to a number of Russians and had several answers. One was that the Russian people had been used to pictures of the czar and the czar’s family, and when the czar was removed they needed something to substitute for him. Another was that the icon is a Russian habit of mind, and this was a kind of an icon. A third, that the Russians love Stalin so much that they want him ever present. A fourth, that Stalin himself does not like this and has asked that it be discontinued. But it seemed to us that Stalin’s dislike for anything else causes its removal, but this is on the increase. Whatever the reason is, one spends no moment except under the smiling, or pensive, or stern eye of Stalin. It is one of those things an American is incapable of understanding emotionally. There are other pictures and other statues too. And one can tell approximately what the succession is by the size of the photographs and portraits of other leaders in relation to Stalin. Thus in 1936, the second largest picture to Stalin’s was of Voroshilov, and now the second largest picture is invariably Molotov.

Steinbeck and Capa eat and drink their way around Moscow, Kiev, some collective farms, Stalingrad and Georgia, apparently suffering only from the opposite of starvation in Ukraine and some springless vehicles. They are particularly appreciative of Georgia; Stalingrad is the most grueling, with people still living underground (and emerging spotless, or feral) and a fly problem. The tone is lovely: arguably naive, hopeful if apprehensive, warm but unsentimental towards the people "who are like all other people", mocking (principally of Capa and their minder, Chmarsky the Chmarxist) and humane. Steinbeck, in other words.

Profile Image for Tilda.
126 reviews27 followers
March 13, 2021
Istusid kord kirjanik John Steinbeck ja fotograaf Robert Capa ja mõtlesid, et krt, teeks midagi. Läheks nt reisile. No nt sõjast toibuvasse Nõukogude Liitu. Vaataks, kuidas seal inimesed elavad. Mida seljas kannavad ja mida söövad, millest unistavad või unesid näevad, pidutsevad, surevad. Mõeldud, tehtud. Viisad saadi kiiresti ja vaatamata kaasmaalaste keelitustele loobuda kindlat ja piinarikast surma toovast plaanist, asuti teele.

1947, külma sõja algusaegne hiigelriik, eesriie juba langeb, kuid raudne veel pole. Bürokraatia, isikukultus, diktatuur ja tsensuur. Propagandamasin kogub tuure, äsjased liitlased juba muutuvad pommi ehitavateks ülesöönud kapitalistideks.

Targa inimesena ütleb Steinbeck kohe raamatu alguses ära, et see ei ole raamat Venemaast või elust Venemaal, see on raamat tema ja Capa reisist Venemaale. Kindlasti see nii oligi ja pmts võiks siin pikalt arutada, mida kõike Steinbeck märkas või taipas ja siis otse välja ei kirjutanud või siis kohati ehk omamoodi ikkagi kirjutas, aga ma ei hakka. Vist seepärast, et ka poliitilisest varjundist üle või mööda vaadates, on selle reisikirja lugemisele kulunud (vähene, kahjuks) aeg väga hästi veedetud aeg.Steinbeck kirjutab hästi, eredalt ja täpselt ja talle on kerge kaasa elada. 40 päeva jooksul pistetakse rinda bürokraatiaga, lennatakse plekkpurki meenutavate lennukitega ja sõidetakse veidrike täis rongiga, suheldakse tööliste ja põllumeestega, kirjanike, ametnike ja lastega. Süüakse, juuakse, tantsitakse, üllatutakse, üllatutakse veel ja veel, naerdakse, vihastutakse ja siis jälle – süüakse ja juuakse kuni voodisse kukutakse, et ärgata vaid mõni tund hiljem ja kõike otsast alata. Moskvat, Stalingradi, Kiievit ja Tbilisi.

Mulle meeldis kõige rohkem osa, kus Steinbeck kirjeldab, kuidas nad Capaga Kremlit külastasid. Nt arutasid nad Lenini muuseumis ringi jalutades, et eluajal oli Lenin tõenäoliselt inimene, kes iial mitte midagi ära ei visanud, isegi mitte kõige väiksemat märkmepaberit, rääkimata kulunud pliiatsijupist või lõhkistest kalossidest. Külastades Vene vürstide elupruume aga nentisid, et neis ruumides ei saanudki muud sündida kui erinevad julmurid. Minu must-do list before … ei ole kuigi pikk, kuid Kremli külastus on seal nüüd üsnagi prioriteetsel kohal.

Lisaks kõigele veel palju head huumorit, mh Steinbeci ja Capa omavahelisi tögamisi ja kuhjaga tavalist inimesearmastust. Ja siis need Capa fotod, muidugi. Need on veebis olemas ja vaadatavad, no nt siis https://www.magnumphotos.com/arts-cul...
Profile Image for E.
384 reviews81 followers
April 11, 2011
Snapshots textual and visual of post-war Stalinist Russia from two beguiling travelers who don't take themselves too seriously. Because Steinbeck openly admits that their observations are superficial and could never be otherwise, and because his affection for people everywhere glows throughout the book, one is never tempted to dispute his account.

Cold War history is so often obsessed with the top-down perspective. This book offered many insights I had always craved during my Soviet history classes as I wondered about the people whose existence was threatened by the convictions and actions of those leading them.
Profile Image for John.
2,031 reviews197 followers
March 7, 2017
For a relatively short book, I still found it bogged down at times, especially the preparation for the trip and the digressions about (digs at) his photographer companion. The story was likely groundbreaking at the time, but struck me as dated now. A strong interest in either Russia, or that era, would be necessary to appreciate the book more than I did. Narration captured the tone well.
December 29, 2021
ძალიან ცუდია, რომ ბევრი ამერიკელის მსგავსად სტაინბეკიც, ძირითადად, ყველა საბჭოელს "რუსად" მოიხსენიებს და მხოლოდ კიევში ან თბილისში ჩასვლის შემდეგ ახსენდება, რომ იქ უკრაინელები და ქართველები ცხოვრობენ, რომლებიც განსხვავდებიან რუსებისგან, ცუდია ისიც, რომ ვეფხისტყაოსნის თარგმანში "Tiger' არის ნახსენები, თამარ მეფეს კი დედოფალს უწოდებს (თუმცა, ისტორიის უდიდეს დედოფლების გვერდით კი აყენებს), მაგრამ საერთო ჯამში, კარგი დოკუმენტალისტიკაა. თან, ქართველობის რომ არ შეგრცხვება, ისეთი
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