A russian journal, by John Steinbeck

Diario Russo, di John Steinbeck

Questa settimana ho trascorso un paio di giorni a Trento, una cittadina ai piedi delle Alpi.

Insieme a mia moglie abbiamo incontrato una famiglia di amici provenienti dagli Stati Uniti che non incontravamo da prima del Covid. E’ stato piacevole e rilassante poter chiaccherare a voce e non per via telematica. Anche se spesso per prudenza portavamo la nostra mascherina!

This week I spent a couple of days in Trento, a small town near the Alps.

Together with my wife we met a family of friends from the United States whom we had not met since before Covid. It was pleasant and relaxing to be able to chat verbally and not via computer. Although we often wore our masks out of caution!

Girovagando per la città ho notato una piccola ma ben fornita libreria e allora, logicamente sono entrato insieme a mia moglie. Ovviamente tanti libri di montagna ma anche tanti libri di viaggio. E quando noi entriamo in una libreria diffcilmente ne usciamo a mani vuote!

Wandering around town I noticed a small but well-stocked bookstore and so, of course my wife and I went in. Obviously lots of mountain books but also lots of travel books. And when we enter a bookstore it’s difficult for us  to leave with nothing in our hands!

Il libro che ha catturato la mia attenzione questa volta è stato “Diario Russo” di John Steinbeck. Siamo nel 1947 e questo libro nasce da un viaggio dell’autore insieme al fotografo Robert Capa. In un momento nel quale la Russia è diventata di attualità, putroppo in un modo drammatico mi è sembrato interessante poter leggere cosa se ne  scrivesse più di settanta annni fa, in un momentoi nel quale  io non ero ancora nato!

The book that caught my attention was “A Russian Journal” by John Steinbeck. It is 1947, and this book grew out of a trip the author took together with photographer Robert Capa. At a time when Russia is daily in the news in a dramatic way, it seemed interesting to me to be able to read what was known and written about it more than seventy years ago,  by the way a time in which  I had not yet been born!

Ho sempre amato la scrittura di Steinbeck: semplice, chiara ed efficace nel trasmettere pensieri e sensazioni. Uno scrittore spesso (sempre?) dalla parte della gente comune,  dei maltrattati e dei perdenti. E come appassionato di fotografia come avrei potuto restare indifferente alle fotografie di Robert Capa? Un fotografo che come disse lo stesso Steinbeck in occasione della sua morte  (Indocina 1954) “scattava fotografie che sono pensieri”.

I have always loved Steinbeck’s writing: simple, clear and effective in conveying thoughts and feelings. A writer often (always?) on the side of ordinary people, the abused and the losers. And as a photography enthusiast, how could I have remained indifferent to the photographs of Robert Capa? A photographer who as Steinbeck himself said on the occasion of his death (Indochina 1954) “took photographs that are thoughts.”

Quello che ho notato subito in questo libro è che i testi e le fotografie non sono gli uni la descrizione delle altre, ma entrambi raccontano una propria storia: storie che si completano poi nel libro. Sono sicuro sarà  interessdante e piacevole.

What I noticed right away in this book is that the texts and photographs are not descriptions of each other, but both tell their own story:  stories which come together later in the book. I am sure it will be interesting and enjoyable.

E a voi capita di entrare in una libreria per curiosità e uscirne con qualche cosa di speciale?

And does it happen to you to walk into a bookstore out of curiosity and come out with something special?

Come sempre potete cliccare la foto per una viisone ingrandita e dovreste già sapere che i vostri commenti sono graditi.

As always you can click the photo for an enlarged view and you should already know that your comments are appreciated, thank you.

16 pensieri su “A russian journal, by John Steinbeck

  1. A wonderful post, Robert. Yes, it happens to me! “…took photographs that are thoughts” is a fascinating idea.
    I like the way you wrote about your observations about Steinbeck’s writing and the book you bought. I think a lot about how text and image work together – as you said, one does not have to describe the other. It can be a more oblique relationship. There’s a book I like that does that by Teju Cole called ‘Blind Spot.’ There is a photo on one page, and a block of text on the page across from it (so you see both when you open the book or turn the page). Usually there’s an indirect relationship between the image and text. . It’s poetic.
    It’s nice to hear that you met some old friends from far away, too. 🙂

    • The relationship between text and image is complex and open many possibilities. Teju Cole is a master in that!
      Another good book with visual and stories is by Wim Wenders “Una Volta” . Difficult to find now.
      Not many things much better than meeting friends, even better when they come from far away!

  2. Beautiful post, and now I too want to pick up this book and read it as I too love Steinbeck. How you found this book is a story within itself ~ there is nothing quite like walking into a bookstore and then have a moment when everything seems to align and you find something special. Cheers!

  3. I’m surprised that I’ve never heard of this Steinbeck book. It does sound interesting; I think I’ll see whether our library can get it for me.

    I espcially enjoy used bookstores, and old books. In Iowa in the 1950s and 1960s, our town didn’t have a bookstore, but there were farm sales and estate sales where you could buy boxes of books for two dollars. There were some treasures to be hard, especially among the truly old books with onion skin and vellum pages, and that wonderful, musty smell that can’t be found anywhere else — except in the stacks of some libraries.

    • Used bookstores are really interesitng, at least for two reasons: one is what you can find and number two is the special atmosphere…so different from the large retail groups!
      This book by Steinbeck was a surprise for me as well!

  4. That sounds like a great book. How lucky you were to find it. I’m a sucker for bookstores. Lately I have been buying poetry. It’s a little embarrassing to learn that my


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