A Russian Journal
by John Steinbeck
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appeared in 1948, A Russian Journal is the distillation of their journey and remains a remarkable memoir and unique historical document.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.
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by Andrea Lee
At age twenty-five, Andrea Lee joined her husband, a Harvard doctoral candidate in Russian history, for his eight months’ study at Moscow State University and an additional two months in Leningrad. Published to enormous critical acclaim in 1981, Russian Journal is the award-winning author’s penetrating, vivid account of her everyday life as an expatriate in Soviet culture, chronicling her fascinating exchanges with journalists, diplomats, and her Soviet contemporaries. The winner of the Jean Stein Award from the National Academy of Arts and Letters–and the book that launched Lee’s career as a writer–Russian Journal is a beautiful and clear-eyed travel-writing classic.
“[Lee] takes us wherever she is, conveying a feeling of place and atmosphere that is the mark of real talent.”
–The Washington Post Book World
“A book of very great charm . . . [Lee] records what she saw and heard with unassuming delicacy and exactness.”
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Russian journal, 1965-1990
by Inge Morath, Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko
A Russian Diary
by Anna Politkovskaya
Writing with unflinching clarity, Politkovskaya depicts a society strangled by cynicism and corruption. As the Russian elections draw near, Politkovskaya describes how Putin neutralizes or jails his opponents, muzzles the press, shamelessly lies to the public–and then secures a sham landslide that plunges the populace into mass depression. In Moscow, oligarchs blow thousands of rubles on nights of partying while Russian soldiers freeze to death. Terrorist attacks become almost commonplace events. Basic freedoms dwindle daily.
And then, in September 2004, armed terrorists take more than twelve hundred hostages in the Beslan school, and a different kind of madness descends.
In prose incandescent with outrage, Politkovskaya captures both the horror and the absurdity of life in Putin’s Russia: She fearlessly interviews a deranged Chechen warlord in his fortified lair. She records the numb grief of a mother who lost a child in the Beslan siege and yet clings to the delusion that her son will return home someday. The staggering ostentation of the new rich, the glimmer of hope that comes with the organization of the Party of Soldiers’ Mothers, the mounting police brutality, the fathomless public apathy–all are woven into Politkovskaya’s devastating portrait of Russia today.
“If anybody thinks they can take comfort from the ‘optimistic’ forecast, let them do so,” Politkovskaya writes. “It is certainly the easier way, but it is also a death sentence for our grandchildren.”
A Russian Diary is testament to Politkovskaya’s ferocious refusal to take the easier way–and the terrible price she paid for it. It is a brilliant, uncompromising exposé of a deteriorating society by one of the world’s bravest writers.
Praise for Anna Politkovskaya
“Anna Politkovskaya defined the human conscience. Her relentless pursuit of the truth in the face of danger and darkness testifies to her distinguished place in journalism–and humanity. This book deserves to be widely read.”
–Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent, CNN
“Like all great investigative reporters, Anna Politkovskaya brought forward human truths that rewrote the official story. We will continue to read her, and learn from her, for years.”
“Suppression of freedom of speech, of expression, reaches its savage ultimate in the murder of a writer. Anna Politkovskaya refused to lie, in her work; her murder is a ghastly act, and an attack on world literature.”
“Beyond mourning her, it would be more seemly to remember her by taking note of what she wrote.”
From the Hardcover edition.