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A Russian Journal (1948)

av John Steinbeck

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MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
5071435,312 (3.85)57
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 A RUSSIAN JOURNAL is the distillation of their journey and remains a remarkable memoir and unique historical document.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… (mer)
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engelska (11)  nederländska (1)  ungerska (1)  spanska (1)  Alla språk (14)
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Justo después de que el Telón de Acero cayera sobre Europa del Este, el ganador del Pulitzer John Steinbeck y el famoso fotógrafo de guerra Robert Capa se aventuraron en la Unión Soviética con el fin de escribir un reportaje para el New York Herald Tribune. Esta oportunidad única llevó a los famosos viajeros no solo a Moscú y Stalingrado, sino también por los campos de Ucrania y el Cáucaso.El campo y las ciudades seguían arrasados por la guerra y el transporte por carreteras y raíles devastados resultaba difícil. Todas las familias habían sufrido las consecuencias del conflicto, y su vida cotidiana se veía negativamente afectada por los largos años de ocupación y lucha. Pero el voluntarioso pueblo soviético se estaba reconstruyendo, y en medio de la penuria acogieron en sus casas y en sus vidas a los periodistas occidentales. ( )
  juan1961 | May 12, 2020 |
I liken this bit of photo-journalism to Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. Rather than Parisian cafe's Steinbeck and photographer Robert Capa travel to and within Russia in 1947 with the intent to debunk misconceptions about Russian people held by Americans at that time. To capture the typical, everyday life of Russians; the type of food they eat, clothes they wear and schools they attend, all while keeping a perfectly neutral view.
Steinbeck and Capa traveled to Moscow, Ukraine, Stalingrad and Tiflis, Georgia. Along the way they were treated generously by farmhands and sometimes suspiciously by others but always with an over abundance of food, vodka and wine. Their conversations were enlightening and their fears similar to those back home.
Steinbeck's conclusion is heartfelt and just as relevant 70's years hence as he states, "...the most dangerous tendency in the world is the desire to believe a rumor rather than to pin down a fact." ( )
  Carmenere | Apr 17, 2019 |
Definitely enjoyed more than I thought I would. This was the first book in my American Lit 1945-present class, and it's a good pick. John Steinbeck, well-known American author from the depression era teams up with war photographer Robert Capa to go around the Soviet Union and faithfully record what they see there in the style of new journalism.

As an outspoken Republican and an English major, sometimes conversations about socialism/communism get a little touchy. However, reading this book was an incredibly eye-opening experience. I didn't understand how people could honesty buy into the idea of a Government-controlled economy, but Steinbeck shows the benefits(?) this system provides to the people of the Soviet Union, and the many ways in which art is employed to brainwash the populace into believing that this is the best way to live. One of the most powerful quotes from the books is Steinbeck exploring the role of the writer in a Capitalist society vs an Communist society: "... 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.”

Steinbeck's style in this book is dry, witty and informative. Worst thing about the prose was probably that sometimes it felt like Steinbeck was talking down to his audience, dumbing down his prose to appeal to a wider audience.

All in all, an excellent book. Would recommend.
( )
1 rösta Monica_P | Nov 22, 2018 |
A Russian Journal by John Steinbeck of all people. I picked it up because Travels with Charley is a favorite of mine so I thought, oh, I like Steinbeck's travel writing! But he's a bit of an ass in this book. The trip was a somewhat impromptu affair, the idea of which came from a conversation in a bar when Steinbeck and a few other literary/intelligentsia types started wondering about what "real Russians" were like. They were conscious, even at this time just post WWII, that the picture they received of the Soviet Union was highly skewed and politicized:

"In the papers every day 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...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, and they were the things that interested us most of all. What do the people wear there? What do they serve at dinner? Do they have parties?...How do they make love, and how do they die? What do they talk about?

etc, etc. It's a series of very naive and condescending questions, but it prompted enough interest to organize a trip as a kind of cultural exchange. Steinbeck et al deliberately traveled without journalist credentials, which would have put them under the oversight of the Foreign Office. Instead, they ended up under the care of various cultural departments and writers' unions, which minimized their interactions with state security services, but also meant they had to navigate some truly labyrinthine bureaucracy.

It is the "et al" of the group that is of most interest here, because one of the people traveling with Steinbeck was Robert Capa. As a documentation of "real Russia" Steinbeck's account is not much of a success -- he spends more time talking about the travel conditions and the inconveniences of idiosyncratic plumbing than he does talking about, or to, those real Russians. However, Capa's photographs, which illustrate the book, more than make up for it. They are a wonder. And frankly, they rescue the text from its often petulant myopia.

The best section is the time they spend at several collective farms in the Ukraine and Georgia, where Steinbeck forgets himself enough to really pay attention and talk to the people he encounters. And they talk to him, asking hundreds of questions about farming conditions and political ideas in the United States, most of which he doesn't know how to answer. In this section, Capa's photographs show people working, or dancing, or baking bread, and and they are smiling and proud everyone is barefoot since shoes are too rare to use in the fields:

There was one woman, with an engaging ace and a great laugh, whom Capa picked out for a portrait. She was the village wit. She said, "I am not only a great worker, I am twice widowed, and many men are afraid of me now.." And she shook a cucumber in the lens of Capa's camera.

And Capa said, "Perhaps you'd like to marry me now?"

She rolled back her head and howled with laughter. "Now you, look!" she said. "If God had consulted the cucumber before he made man, there would be less unhappy women in the world."

And all in all, despite Steinbeck's general self-absorption, there does emerge a picture of the nascent Soviet Union, before the terrible realities of the Stalinist regime had fully taken hold or the extent of its crimes had come to light. Steinbeck's account lacks this looming cloud of historical hindsight. Instead this is an account of a Russia that -- infrastructure issues and bureaucratic red tape not withstanding -- had won a war at great cost and whose people were throwing themselves into building a new world.
  southernbooklady | Aug 19, 2017 |
All sorts of interesting information about post-war life in the Soviet Union is packed into this short book. It's a unique history, an eye-witness account of everyday life in a nation devastated by war but determined to recover on its own. Writer/journalist John Steinbeck and photojournalist Robert Capa travelled to the Soviet Union in 1947, barely two years after the end of WWII.

Steinbeck explained the venture:

…[I]t occurred to us that there were some things that nobody wrote about Russia, and they were the things that interested us most of all. What do the people wear there? What do they serve at dinner?...What do they talk about? Do they dance, and sing, and play?...There must be a private life of the Russian people, and that we could not read about because no one wrote about it, and no one photographed it.

Under Stalin, the country was secretive, welcoming neither purposeful visitors nor random tourists.
Getting visas was a long and deliberately frustrating process, but the two journalists did get them, ultimately spending time in Moscow and Stalingrad, in Kiev and at collective farms in the Ukraine, and several places in Georgia.

Delays, mix-ups and misunderstandings, postponements and cancellations, and bureaucratic snarls were commonplace. No flying after dark; public transit unreliable. The pair couldn't go anywhere unaccompanied, but because they were under the aegis of VOKS, a Soviet agency promoting international cultural contact between writers, artists, and others, they had far more freedom than members of the international press corps (whose every dispatch was censored). Capa had to get official credentials before he was allowed to photograph anything, and even then, he was held up time and again by individual policemen who, studying his permit and questioning its validity, called in colleagues patrolling the neighborhood to consult. The usual judgment of the men on the spot was to call headquarters and wait until a higher-up arrived. He would arrive, okay the permit, and chat for a time with the foreigner. Even with a permit, photographing industrial operations--even the most commonplace--was not allowed.

When they did get out and about, always with a VOKS interpreter and guide, they visited stores and shops, ate in restaurants, toured museums, and tried to just chat with people. Moscow, their initial destination, was relatively untouched by the war; the Nazis got swallowed up by the Russian winter before they got to the Russian capital. Nevertheless, the Muscovites were uniformly glum, unsmiling, and humorless. In Stalingrad and Kiev, on the other hand, cities absolutely flattened by the Germans, the residents were friendly, smiling and laughing, voluble, living amongst the rubble and making do.

In the farmlands of the Ukraine, the Soviet "breadbasket," they visited collective farms, worked primarily by women, old men, boys, and a few former soldiers, most of them disabled. Many of the able-bodied men were victims of the war. Livestock had been slaughtered by the Nazis, and mechanical equipment destroyed. Two years later, the farm communities were still struggling to rebuild their herds and awaiting a tractor or two to expedite both planting and harvest. Like their urban countrymen, the farmers were friendly, good-humored, living with what they had, making do, looking to the future.

The biggest fear of the Russians, in both city and country, was of another war.

Steinbeck didn't say this in so many words, but you gather that life in the Soviet Union was not markedly different from life in central and western European countries. Nevertheless, the official line belied this judgment; access to the country was limited, and reports were closely controlled and rigorously censored. I don't think Steinbeck ever used the term "totalitarian." But he was conscious of the image of Stalin everywhere.

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…[T]he pictures of Stalin outgrow every bound of rea­son....Every public building carries monster portraits of him. We spoke of this to a number of Russians and had several answers
[ none particularly satisfying]....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.

I did enjoy reading Steinbeck's "journal" and viewing Capa's photos. Working with a mass-market paperback failed to present the latter to good advantage. Images too small, clumsily cropped, shadow detail lost in black. Happily, all 69 photos published in the book can be viewed at the Magnum Photos website: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2TYRYDIPUATU
  weird_O | Jul 19, 2016 |
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Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Steinbeck, Johnprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Capa, RobertFotografmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Marcondes, ClaudioÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Shillinglaw, SusanInledningmedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
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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

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