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Just after the Iron Curtain fell on Eastern Europe, Pulitzer Prize-winning author 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 travelers not only to Moscow and Stalingrad - now Volgograd - but through the countryside of the Ukraine and the Caucasus. Hailed by the New York Times as "superb" when it first appeared in 1948, A Russian Journal is the distillation of their journey and remains a remarkable memoir and unique historical document.
What they saw and movingly recorded in words and on film was what Steinbeck called "the great other side there... the private life of the Russian people." Unlike other Western reporting about Russia at the time, A Russian Journal is free of ideological obsessions. Rather, Steinbeck and Capa recorded the grim realities of factory workers, government clerks, and peasants, as they emerged from the rubble of World War II - represented here in Capa's stirring photographs alongside Steinbeck's masterful prose.
Through it all, we are given intimate glimpses of two artists at the height of their powers, answering their need to document human struggle. This edition features an introduction by Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jean on 12-04-14
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 The report they created on life under Joseph Stalin’s command, is a highly valuable historical document.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.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
By Doug on 11-18-14
Steinbeck non-fiction is always good!
I love Steinbeck's writing, both his fiction and his non-fiction. So I am biased perhaps. This audio is as good as any of Steinbeck's later narratives, like Travels with Charley and Sea of Cortez, both of which I loved. A Russian Journal details Steinbecks' travels in Russia with Robert Capa after World War II. They went there to see how common folk lived and what was going on at ground level in the country. Steinbeck was the words man and Capa the photographs man. And Steinbeck reported in this book all the types of details and human interest events that he was known for in all his writing. The narrator of this book does an excellent job...good pacing, excellent diction, and occasional emphasis when appropriate...a good narrator does not stand between the listener and the book, he disappears and that is exactly what this narrator does....it is as if he is not there...he is not a distraction.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Stanley Sokol on 12-01-15
Enjoyable easy listen not for historic buffs
Would you listen to A Russian Journal again? Why?
Personally I wouldn't listen to the book again simply due to the fact that in many ways it's a travelling journal and listening to it again will not provide too many new insights.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Aside from Kapa, my favourite character was Chmarsky simply due to his ability to cause trouble and delays.
Which scene did you most enjoy?
The travel to Georgia was the highlight of the book and the descriptions really made want to see it first hand
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
The description of the mentally-disturbed girl in Stalingrad is heartbreaking and highlights one of the aspects of any war-suffering of civilians and loss of sanity
Any additional comments?
This book in my opinion should be read purely for enjoyment it is not and does not aim to cover all aspects of life in Soviet Union, many of the things can be thought to be naive impressions of a tourist, however I believe that something of a spirit of that time has been captured and that makes the book worth a read.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
By Shahroz on 01-31-17
A great little journey
This has been a good book to while I was doing work. I was following the narrators journey and imagining the sights and locations in my head. Its great that the narrator spoke with an transatlantic accent like how they did back then and the whole thing brought you back to a time when America and Soviet Russia had tensions and distrust.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful