thumbnail of As others read us: American fiction abroad; John Steinbeck, part one
Hide -
This transcript was received from a third party and/or generated by a computer. Its accuracy has not been verified. If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+.
This is the seventh of a series of programs untitled as others read us American fiction abroad produced and recorded by the Literary Society of the University of Massachusetts under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The subject of this hour's discussion is the foreign reputation of John Steinbeck. The two critics who will discuss the impact of Steinbeck's novels are Mr. Edgar loner and Mr. Alexander Coll a moderator for the discussion will be Mr. Robson Bailey of the University of Massachusetts English department. Mr. Bailey. Thank you Mr. Nader. Instead to Lono and his doctorate at the University of Bonn with a dissertation on William Faulkner. He has lectured at the Salzburg Seminar in Europe and he has taught in America at Lake Forest University at Harvard and at New York University where he is now a professor in the German department. That alone has published translations of German poetry and is translated into German. Some of
the poetry of W.H. Auden. Mr. Cohen Mr. Alexander Cao a well-known author and critic is professor of English at Wesleyan University. Among his publications are John Trumbull Connecticut wit and the Rise of American fiction. He's a contributor to numerous professional and general magazines. We are extremely fortunate gentlemen in being able to start with a sort of rationale for our Credo which Mr. Steinback himself has composed and read specifically for this discussion. Let's listen now to Mr. Steinback. Yes. They are dictionary findings were all one a reasoned exposition of principles. An explanation or statement of reasons. Reason rules or directions to the fundamental reason. A logical or rational basis.
In simpler words. What did you do or write. And why did you do already. There may be writers before the fact of writing but you do this in my own case I hear their rush you know I will be a rationalization. Undertake an active critics road writers approach this like asking a prisoner. Why did you commit murder. His reply could be anything. I guess I did like you and. When I. Met he can work out why he did but he can't really remember the more pressure it was to this hand or a knife. So in my work I can say it must have been this way. But I am not at all sure that I remember. I could say one book.
Things with me of another. It was just an idea. Another possible I was trying to explain something that's not clear to me. And I mean writing it with me standing there. Then there is another writing that just happens and the writers amazed perhaps to let it come out of nowhere. This is true in many towns. My rationale might be like. I feel what I am doing I find joy in the texture and troller rhythms of words and sentences and when the combined structure Kester and trauma any more deciding architecture. Then there comes a feeling of satisfaction and rest like shared love. If you're in difficulties an
easy may even have this satisfaction in my case must come during or immediately after the break. It has occurred to me that process is the process. For this reason there is neither a place. For me in my feelings for my work. And he's with this computer. Afterwards it comes to me strange and I don't remember it very well. I know he pointed out to me that you know a man's life or word there will be found directions and tendencies and perhaps repetitions. I'm sure this is a man who rightfully is doing and although he may be versatile. His versatility cannot be infinite. If you
writes a greater amount than I do there is bound to emerge a pattern or personality like that or any other complete organism. To me each piece of work has been gurneys parturition an individual thing. You look at the world having the characteristics of life and all took place. There. There is always the feeling of loss. Completion is no life or go on an idea perhaps of a gray area. So don't box or jar become rich and con until it is surrounded by. I'm up to the crown off howling to be ridden. As for my reason next to the shoe print I suspect that they're no different from those of any man living out his life. I want a course to be good and strong and virtuous and wise and love. I think that writing may be a method or technique for communication with other
individuals and it's stimulus alone. Loneliness we are born in right. Perhaps we hope to achieve companionship. Some people find in religion a writer may find a new source of the small frightened lonely into the whole of the elite. Breaking through the glory. And this very human tendencies toward sanity or maybe they are part of bubbles in the play. Late on airplanes was asked by radio goer doors where babies came from. And after making certain they really wanted to know. She told them. They listened silently and at the end the mother asked now are you sure you understand. The oldest girl said yes we understand what you do but why do you do it.
The mother thought for a month. Cause it could well be right. My work is with no mover to it. It is always interesting to hear a right to discuss on his work. But as he says after the fact discussion is the critics rather than the writer's function. Well our discussion is after the fact and you missed alone. And you Mr. Kelly are the critics. What do you say. It's Mister Steinbeck's position among American novelists from the American point of view. Mr. Bailey I think if I am forced by time to be dogmatic that Mistress Dimebag stands higher at present than any of the first five. I'm not going to name them. Excepting one possibly accepting two despite his not having satisfied people who wanted him to repeat the grapes of
rot he has actually gone on and produced more fruitfully than many writers assumed to be past their prime. Few writers in this category have produced words that have made us think so seriously as East of Eden or laugh so much as Cannery Row and sweet Thursday. Moreover the earlier books. Now they're 20 years old more or less and we have a perspective on them. I'm more than holding their own are really being read aren't articulate. I wonder how many people were reading Main Street twenty years after. To be sure Mr Steinbeck has not been fully accepted by all formal critics especially what I call a riddle. I'm doing critics systematizing critics and in general critics who prefer ingenuity to creativity. There are surprisingly few serious critical articles about Mr Steinbeck
and some of these are hostile It seems to me. One critic harps on Mister Steinbeck's intellectual poverty whatever that may mean. Mr. Edmund Wilson complains that he deals with moral questions mainly on a primitive level and I judge that the complaint is that Mr. Steinback has given us too many necks and not enough proof rocks. I do not deny all validity to these and other criticisms but I suggest that they are partly partly at least irrelevant in a sense it may be said that Mr Steinbeck does not require the services of critics for better or worse. His books declare themselves. He doesn't write riddles which give employment to critics but you might say mysteries or parables which speak directly to the people his works. Taken together might be looked on as a sort of
latter day morality. Maybe in the 20th century every man's readers are sort of half scared of what this just Dimebag will turn up next but they know it will be life. Well what books are holding their own. We're sure of the Grapes of Wrath Of Mice and Men Tortilla Flat I think too. The Pearl is holding on wonderfully That's a magnificent little piece. Perfect in every respect. The Red Pony and several other stories of the lot in the long valley seem to me already prominent parts of our literature are the Sea of Cortez has gone home to many many readers and indeed I think you don't know Steinbeck until you read the Sea of Cortez in dubious battle grows in critical approval even perhaps because of its ambivalence and a few hardy souls are going back and tinkering with it for tillage the symbolism to a god unknown. I wish them joy. It's a fine book. I have no
statistics on Thursday or east of the NE seem to do well. He has written with a reckless creativeness but sometime the age will change. And I think it is possible that Mr. Steinberg will still be around Georgia Tech so I certainly don't. What about the European point of view on Islam. Well it doesn't differ very much from the American at the moment. Steinberg is as much in favor as the Olympians is. Hemingway off Arkanoid Tennessee Williams is only surpassed by the tremendous success of the plays and novels of fond wilder for whom the Europeans particularly the Germans seem to have a special liking. But this has only been so for the past three or four years. But even in view of Wilders appeal one has to make one exception Steinbeck's East of Eden of which twenty five thousand copies were sold has
become a bestseller in Germany. And according to the results of a test given to the German public by the union of knowledge of German publishers at the end of March of this year US Dimebag figures 6 and the list of world literature even before Hemingway and Faulkner during the first years after the war. However the situation was even different at that time Steinbeck assumed first place them on American novelist Faulkner was almost unknown. Hemingway was still remembered at least by the older generation and so called well singular lawyers and even more so apt and simpler. Except for his earlier works almost all of his books have been translated into German and French mice and man was a tremendous success and was performed by many students on student stages Cannery Row till I fled and the Grapes of Wrath were widely read and discussed in finance and we might as well take the opinion of.
On Please read who learned about American literature as we all know by only model and G-d Himself said that it has taken him some time to get accustomed to Faulkner whom he considered to be one of the most important writers. By then he had made a sinner we see sin we don't need but on their side if I say so the man has given him the greatest satisfaction. Is time back the book that impressed me most was in dubious battle. It impressed me even more than Grapes of Wrath. This opinion is I believe symptomatic of the leftists in France seem to be much more in favor of in dubious battle then of and if thing else in Scandinavia and in Greece. Steinbeck is a much admired and with Hemingway Hemingway the most read of them so I was out as an introduction where you know to be almost specifically with Mr Steinberg as an American witness we listen now to a selection from Tortilla Flat and early and still very popular book read by Mr
Sternberg Morris is the slow. Will with a blow out with the forester told her by. These are the facts. The lower parts of that town are inhabited by Americans Italians. OK sure is a fish canners of fish but on the Hill or the forest in the tundra mingle where the streets are innocent of the spout in the corners of your street lives the old inheritors of Moreira battle as they should Britons are about annoying. These are the little wooden houses in we heard. And the pine trees from the forester are about ours. By some of the commercialism three of the complicated systems of American business. Knowing nothing we can be still an exploded orange system. That's not a terrible risk. I saw
such a salute in California. But concerning race plays a role. To show the enemy's armies. Color like that for all of us in the Flatow. Let alone what different view of America does the European reader derive from Mr Steinbeck's peasant people. Different say from the view he derives from the people of Caldwell Fawkner Hemingway such people as the players consider a typically American one legendary or simply California local color. No I missed the valley I don't think any European would consider them as legendary.
Not even the most misinformed European and most Europeans are misinformed about America. To my knowledge they are generally accepted for what they actually are. The pies are knows that is that mixture of Spanish indian mexican and a sort of Caucasian bloods who seem to have in a way their relatives and become phony the poor peasants are peasant people of economics you'll see loan or any other of the major post-war Italian novelists for instance battle the taurine and Carlo Levy. And this goes back to I think they are much easier understood and accepted than one would generally assume and I don't think they are very typically American when there's no such thing as typically American. The pies on others are considered by your peons as a segment the representation of a segment a beautiful and appealing part of the melting pot in America and in America and in theirs they are first of all of cars. California local
color just as Faulkner's characters for instance are first of all inhabitants of the American south before they become something else just as Hemingway's character is definitely not regional but almost cosmopolitan. But Steinbeck spies on us have something else that we just beyond California. Just as it comes to such a Taurus incorporate qualities which are universal. The parties are no Scopus and a fraternity of rascals. A Late Edition of people asked fiction as one critic put it who was I think as impulsive kindness and who distinguished themselves by human bombs and gayety and carelessness which is particularly appealing in our time. As such they are alive much more alive and courageous than we all are. They are unspoiled by our mechanised age they are amusing and as such they appear to opinions and counterbalance
the evil impact of Hollywood and Life magazine. The pie is honest to my mind seem to have much in common with some of Caldwell's characters. They are lighter less but emotionally intellectually and morally than most of us character. They are also less tragic less aware of some of the fundamental problems of life. Terms like Enjoy the geisha grief and despair which I impart Monty's in Falkner's novels do not occur to you have fled. If they do they have by no means the same impact. Just because I do feel that their view differs very much from the american Well I think it does in a way it is today I have very much to say about this but I'm inclined to say is it mainly that European readers perhaps do not know what a small minority these prices on others constitute in America.
Yet although we know that they are a minority if indeed they exist at all in reality we also know that they will change in response to the mobility of American life. Some of them will presently have vacuum cleaners that will work. They'll be able to plug them in. And some of them will soon be making a hundred dollars a week. That's when their own happiness will begin. Gradually some of them will get tangled up in your rhotic. More and more like Mr Pritchard in the wayward but soon they'll get mired in the mud with them. A few of them probably statistically a few of them will become tycoons in the long run and they won't fool along Route 66 in sleek Cadillacs getting each day more and more out of touch with the fundamentals of life. Finally they will go back and read and read Mr Steinbeck's told TDA flat. Possibly they will find it quaint but some of them happily will remain loafers and some will remain small
time operators in tune with life merging with their habitat I believe that Steinbeck's phrase other Americans will know that these people are just as good as anybody anybody was to be late. As you said and some of us will envy them. That's about all I want to say about that. Well from this brave consideration of Mister Steinbeck's people let's turn now to a consideration of these ideas which have had an impact on the European reader. We have thought of Mr. Steinback as a social idealist dealing with crisis and Utopia. He now reads a passage from The Grapes of Wrath. But sometimes they're telling us you know this flesh sandwich wrapped in white people cheese spam piece of pie park here with us. And it came out to see looked curious whether
the girls were taken off the road or messed leaving white circles around their nose and mouth. Exhaust of the tractor feel this Sochi it is more efficient to leave the engine running and heat the diesel know from the start. Curious children close their doors they were asked and there was the rarity of the sandwiches and there was this will of the people she's speaking to the driver. It was just isn't very cool. They do not want to enjoy their lives. No legal place here Joe Davis. Sure I know we're strong people.
Three hours a day I go dancing before my dinner get a wife and kids every day I go there every day. That's right the tenant said you were three dollars a day you know Joyce and he's getting a little area people have to go out on the road and the driver can't think of that I guess I have my own kids. Three dollars a day every day. Times are changing this goes you know can't make a living on the land unless you. Tend to cry. This isn't something you don't think about all because you can't make for not a job for me to do about it if it goes away someplace. That's the only way to part. Funny thing is if a man
is here it's part of the human just like you. If you own property only so you can walk on camera doesn't do it. I feel fine in the rain and some ways bigger because he owns it. Even if he successfully did this probably so. And the tenant told Lord man get property doesn't see can't take time to get this thing is it can't be there walking where the brother is the man can do what he wants he can think with properties that were stronger than he is he is only his possessions are used to this property and that is true too. I really want bran pies. It's time to change coach and stuff like that will feature days Egypt here. You've got no call to worry about anybody but your own
reputation and you'll never get a day to worry about it. People go to me the driver said. You're very small you know if you go to the jury or dinner with your family. If I actually did you know get too close. Well I might get a couple dollars and my shoes my nails to the sheathing for
my bill. You'll bump it down obvious. Even to me. There's nothing I can do. Do it in the book. You're just a new and before long long long job yet another theory about killing the right orders. He's going to rob the bank job as. President of the board of directors of the magazine. May or may start for a film starring me.
Maybe there's no shoot me this season. Maybe like you said. He's doing it anyway I told him my orders. I'm going to figure the tens to figure the song I just wish. It's not like a lightning or a bad thing maybe but I mean by God is something we can change. Tennis sadness started off track for curly hair rose calling and the Cedars slipping into the ground across your car seat feel cut through again space is 10 feet wide and back he came crumpled the rest of us was fine. The little girl in the story is an old
Curtis here this year. It is work that is true of all of those dear to the list alone or would you comment from the European point of view on this image of American crisis. Yeah I'll be glad to learn and I think this image of crisis cannot be understood in terms of economic and financial disaster alone. The material terms may have been the cause which will lead to the up rooting the homelessness and the and security of these people. This passage however has to be understood I think symbolically. As such it goes beyond the people of Oklahoma and assumes greater significance. It becomes universal in so far as it demonstrates that man on the whole is no longer able to conceive his
existence as rational he coordinated to the world in which he lives. Nor can he coordinate the world and the social reality to his existence.
As others read us: American fiction abroad
John Steinbeck, part one
Producing Organization
University of Massachusetts
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-1z41wb02).
Episode Description
This program, part one of two, explores European views of the works of John Steinbeck. Steinbeck himself speaks here, as do critics Edgar Lohner and Alexander Coxie.
Series Description
This series analyzes European views of the works of American authors.
Broadcast Date
American literature--Europe--History and criticism.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Guest: Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968
Guest: Lohner, Edgar
Guest: Coxie, Alexander
Moderator: Bailey, Robeson, 1906-
Producing Organization: University of Massachusetts
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-22-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:12
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “As others read us: American fiction abroad; John Steinbeck, part one,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 19, 2024,
MLA: “As others read us: American fiction abroad; John Steinbeck, part one.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 19, 2024. <>.
APA: As others read us: American fiction abroad; John Steinbeck, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from