Steinbeck, John (1902 – 1968)

‘We leave Monday for Uncle Joe’s Cabin’ — Steinbeck on his Soviet trip with photographer Robert Capa

A fine autograph letter signed by John Steinbeck, ‘John’, one page, Hotel Plaza, Stockholm letterhead, July 25th [1947]. The author writes to his friend, the actor Burgess Meredith.

In full: ‘Your letters were received just before I left Paris. The French are a very immoral people. But Honest Jake Pfaff made Gwyn a very beautiful dress — walk upstairs and save $5. Stockholm is a fine town. There is a report here that you are going to play Winterset here. Is this true? We leave Monday for Uncle Joe’s [Joseph Stalin] Cabin. Have no idea what we will find there but I hope it is all right. Capa is in good shape. Now he is in the country photographing farmers and farmers’ daughters I guess. I hope your opening is triumphant and it is bound to be. I wish it were my play. For two days I have been out amongst the archipelago sporting about in a boat and i feel very good. Boats are fine things. If you need to get word to me it can be ℅ Joe Newman, Herald Tribune Bureau, Moscow. Try it! It will be interesting to see whether it gets through. Good luck and love to Paulette.”

In fine condition.

Steinbeck and photographer Robert Capa flew from Paris to Stockholm on July 21st 1947, with Steinbeck remaining in the country until joining his friend in Moscow at month’s end. Determined to produce an eyewitness account of everyday life in Stalin’s Soviet Union, the pair journeyed along the so-called Vodka Circuit — Moscow, Kiev, Stalingrad, and Georgia — for forty days between July 31st and mid-September 1947, documenting the people and landscapes they encountered. Neither Capa nor Steinbeck naturally gravitated towards collaborative endeavours. The affinity between their creative approaches, however, resulted in a successful collaborations. Capa returned from the trip with almost four thousand negatives, and Steinbeck with several hundred pages of notes. Their efforts resulted in the 1948 book A Russian Journal, which, according to Steinbeck, attempted ‘honest reporting, to set down what we saw and heard with editorial comment, without drawing conclusions about things we didn’t know sufficiently.’