- Chapter Seven, “Epilogue: May 1947–May 1948”
After returning from California in early April, Steinbeck was eager to finalize the preliminary plans made with Capa in March for their New York Herald Tribune trip to the Soviet Union. Any ideas they may have had of departing during the latter part of May had, however, to be postponed for a few weeks when, on the fifteenth of that month, Steinbeck sustained an injury as the result of a fall from a balcony at home. Gwyn herself has recorded her own account of the accident in her autobiography: “One day while we were moving a piano, the railing of our second story window had to be removed, and we thought we had put it back securely. Later, though, John leaned against it and fell out of the window, some twelve or fourteen feet. For four days he was in terrible pain, and one of his knees started filling up with fluid.”1 According to Jackson Benson, Steinbeck suffered a broken kneecap, a badly sprained foot, and miscellaneous bruises and scrapes (599).2 In spite of these injuries, within a month he had insisted that he was fit enough to travel to Paris with Capa on the first stage of their journey to Moscow, although he was obliged to walk with the aid of a cane and still suffered a great deal of discomfort. The two men left New York for Paris sometime between June 15 and 20. Gwyn joined them in the French capital a day or so later, but returned to New York and the children on July 18.
Three days later, Steinbeck and Capa flew to Stockholm, spending a week there before flying to Moscow. They travelled around Russia, Steinbeck making notes and Capa taking photographs, ostensibly freely, but always under the watchful eye of their hosts. Leaving Moscow in mid-September, they spent a week in Prague and a week in Budapest before returning to New York in mid-October.
In anticipation of the forthcoming release of the film, Viking Press published the novella version of The Pearl in November. The book received a generally more affirmative response from critics than had The Wayward Bus earlier in the year, with Orville Prescott even going as far to write that he thought it “much [End Page 95] the best book which Mr. Steinbeck has written since The Red Pony and The Grapes of Wrath”3
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After his return from Russia, Steinbeck again had to face Gwyn’s increasing resentment at being left on her own for yet another long period. And when he had to closet himself in his study each day to write dispatches for the Tribune in order to meet deadlines, there ensued further recriminations. Also, he already had plans for another book—a long novel about the Salinas Valley and its people that he had been wanting to write for several years. He knew that he would need to return to California to carry out research for the book, and he also knew that Gwyn would count such a trip as yet another strike against him. By now, however, it would seem that he had been overtaken by a strange mood of resigned inevitability about his failing marriage and the resulting friction that dominated the household.
Steinbeck completed the New York Herald Tribune dispatches before the New Year, and all eighteen of them were published in the newspaper from January 14 through January 31, 1948. Viking Press published the book version of the dispatches under the title A Russian Journal that April, followed by the seemingly inevitable conflicting critical reviews. Many critics seemed to find Capa's [End Page 96] photographs the more attractive element of the book, displeasing the author and resulting in a temporary cooling of the friendship between the two men.
On January 2, Steinbeck had written to the editor of the Salinas-Californian, asking permission...