John Ernst Steinbeck

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Steinbeck, John Ernst


Born Feb. 27, 1902, in Salinas, Calif.; died Dec. 20,1968, in New York City. American writer.

Steinbeck studied biology at Stanford University and then held a number of jobs before his first work was published. In his early work, Steinbeck displayed his romantic illusions about the possibility of flight from bourgeois society (as in the novel Cup of Gold, 1929) and tended to depict the eccentrics of provincial and rural America (as in the short-story cycles The Pastures of Heaven, 1932, and The Red Pony, 1933). In the 1930’s, he dealt with severe social problems, as in the novel In Dubious Battle (1936) and the novella Of Mice and Men (1937; Russian translation, 1963). The tragedy of Steinbeck’s heroes lies in their disinheritance and their failure to understand the causes of the calamities that befall them. The high point of Steinbeck’s work is the novel Grapes of Wrath (1939; Russian translation, 1940), centered on the fate of farmers who have been driven off the land and roam about the country in search of work. Through severe tribulations, Steinbeck’s heroes come to the realization that they are a small part of a suffering and struggling people.

In the 1940’s, Steinbeck retreated from the traditions of proletarian and revolutionary literature, as can be seen in the novels Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1947), and East of Eden (1952). His work showed a new creative surge in the early 1960’s. The novel The Winter of Our Discontent (1961, Russian translation, 1962) and the book of sketches Travels with Charley: In Search of America (1962; Russian translation, 1965) told anxiously of the destruction of the individual personality in a world of middle-class standards and delusive prosperity. During the war in Vietnam, Steinbeck defended the aggression of the USA. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1962.


The Long Valley. London, 1964.
The Moon Is Down. New York, 1964.
In Russian translation:
Zhemchuzhina. Kvartal Tortil’ia Flet. Moscow, 1963.


Mendel’son, M. O. Sovremennyi amerikanskii roman. Moscow, 1964.
Fontenrose, J., ed. John Steinbeck. New York, 1964.
Moore, H. T. The Novels of John Steinbeck, 2nd ed. Port Washington, N.Y. [1968].
Hayashi, T. Steinbeck’s Literary Dimension: A Guide to Comparative Studies. Metuchen, N.J., 1973.
Hayashi, T. A New Steinbeck Bibliography, 1929–1971. Metuchen, N.J.,1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.