Susan Shillinglaw

English Professor Revisits Steinbeck’s Post World War II Glimpse Behind the Iron Curtain

A Russian Journal book cover

Shillinglaw wrote the introduction to this Penguin classic.

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

Just after World War II, John Steinbeck and acclaimed Hungarian photographer Robert Capa ventured into the Soviet Union to report for the New York Herald Tribune.

This fall, more than a half century later, Steinbeck scholar and SJSU Professor of English Susan Shillinglaw will retrace their footsteps, supported by a U.S. State Department grant. She will travel to Tbilisi and Batumi, Georgia.

“That was his favorite country,” she said. “He loved the Georgian people, their food, and their hospitality.”

In Batumi, she will meet with one of two women who spearheaded recent efforts to produce a documentary film honoring Steinbeck. She will also give talks on the author’s career and trip.

Shillinglaw gave a paper on Steinbeck and Russia at the 2010 Steinbeck Festival in Salinas, and she is working on an article on the same topic. She wrote the introduction for the Penguin Classics edition of Steinbeck’s A Russian Journal.

“Steinbeck and Capa recorded the grim realities of factory workers, government clerks, and peasants, as they emerged from the rubble of World War II,” says the publisher’s website. “This is an intimate glimpse of two artists at the height of their powers, answering their need to document human struggle.”