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    Description

    John Steinbeck Autograph Letter Draft Unsigned.
    Five pages, 8.5" x 12.5", No place; no date [circa 1963]. A drafted letter to Leslie S. Brady at the U.S. Information Agency in Washington, D.C. Brady and Steinbeck had struck up a correspondence in 1954, when Steinbeck was living in Paris and writing articles for Le Figaro. The two men stayed in touch, and it was at Brady's suggestion that Steinbeck travelled to the Soviet Union as a cultural ambassador in 1963. The letter here that Steinbeck has drafted was written prior to his trip, and it reveals some of his concerns about being qualified for the position and his reception in the Soviet Union. Written in pencil, it reads in part:

    "...The subject of course is the possibility of my going to Russia in the fall...My first reaction was one of great weariness. In the light of the Birmingham episodes, it seemed to me that I couldn't or would be reluctant to try to explain that situation to people whose minds would be automatically closed to explanation. There too, its apparent switch back to the old party line regarding art and writing, seemed to indicate to me that the pressures from China and the old Stalin line, actually somewhat the same thing. Might well make me persona non grata. After the trip Capa and I took in 1947, we were not well liked you know...Maybe I am getting old too. A kind of grey weariness creeps over me. And yet I want to go. I should go. There must have been many changes since 1947. And at least now the young and the experimenters are not as cowed as they once were. This is only one of many changes since 1947. Another would be the rebuilding and a new generation coming along who will not remember the war nor the deep height of Stalin. For my own save I should go. My thinking continued this way. We have always been a shy and apologetic people. Sure we have Birmingham, but we are doing something about it. Now is the time to go, not to apologize nor to beat our breasts but to bring some fierceness into it. The kind of fierceness the negroes are using. I don't know that I could do it but I could try...Then I had another idea, I wish you would take in mind. Edward Albee, our newest and perhaps most promising young playwright came to see me last week. I have known him for some time. I told him of this discussion and he showed great enthusiasm for going. He might be a better choice. He is another generation - under 35. He is already probably our best known playwright. And he is not a communist. I think he would have an enormous impact on the younger Russians. He would be very happy to go with us and between us we might be more effective than either one alone..."

    Edward Albee did indeed join the Steinbecks on their cultural exchange trip to the Soviet Union. Albee (1928-2016) is of course best known for his play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The references that Steinbeck makes to "Birmingham" are allusions to the riots in Alabama that took place following the May 11, 1963 bombings by the KKK. Prominent black leaders such as Rev. Alfred D. King and motel owner Arthur G. Gaston were targeted, and initial protests following the event soon turned into violence and rioting.

    Condition: Pages are held together with a small staple. Minor bumping to page corners. A few small pencil smudges throughout. Else very good.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2019
    27th Sunday
    Internet/Mail Bids: 8
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 303

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