The Russian Journal by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck’s the Russian Journal turned out to be absolute fun to read – both style and content. The guy is witty, and witty and smart-alec is what we like.

And, man, looks like certain things will never change around here

His problem was this: his chauffeur drove him very well, but when he was not driving him, he was driving anyone else who was willing to pay a hundred roubles for a short trip. His chauffeur was getting very rich, and the car was taking a beating. There was nothing to do about it, for if he complained his chauffeur was likely to sulk a little bit, and when his chauffeur sulked, something went wrong with his car, and when something went wrong with his car, it was laid up in a garage for two or three weeks. It was better to keep his chauffeur happy if he wanted to be driven in his own car at all. He had tried getting other chauffeurs, but always the same thing happened.

Also, I guess under current circumstances, post a small war that took place exactly 60 years after this book was written, the praise of Georgia as the best place in the FSU looks a bit sad – but it is what it is.

“The people of Georgia seemed to us more relaxed than any we had seen so far, relaxed, and fierce, and full of joy. And perhaps this is why the Russians admire them so. Perhaps this is the way they would like to be.”

“It is a magical place, Georgia, and it becomes dream-like the moment you have left it. And the people are magic people. It is true that they have one of the richest and most beautiful countries in the world, and they live up to it. And we understood thoroughly now why Russians had always said to us, “Until you have seen Georgia, you have seen nothing.””

Given I read this on Stanza and not in paper, I am now after my Capa’s Phaidon portfolio book to check out on the Russian pics. And – I know what I’m gonna try to read next now – Esperando a Robert Capa by Susana Fortes, Capa’s recent fictionalized biography.



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