Reds shun works, Steinbeck and Dos Passos say
September 1, 1957
TOKYO — U.S. Pulitzer Prize-winning author. John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos told a crowd of Japanese reporters, students and fans Saturday that Communists no longer regard their works highly or try to use them for propaganda.
They arrived at Tokyo International Airport with author John Hersey to attend the International PEN Club conference here. Hersey, who is making the first trip to: Japan since a research trip for the book "Hiroshima" In 1943, said that he hopes to visit the rebuilt city again. "It depends on the schedule of the congress," he said.
Dos Passos — hailed as a "proletarian novelist" by the Russians in the thirties — was blasted as a "literary gangster" after the 1953 publication of his novel "Most Likely to Succeed," which depicted the disillusion of a young writer who joins the Communist Party.
"The Russians express much less enthusiasm for my work today," he said. Most of the Red praise came in the days Dos Passos wrote the trilogy "U.S.A.," "Three Soldiers" and other works.
Steinbeck said he has "fought back hard and beaten" Communist attempts to twist some of his earlier works into Communist propaganda.
He said that the Russians retitled the film. version of his book "Grapes of Wrath" and released it in the poorer areas of Russia as an example of the "poverty" in the U.S. The book, a social novel about the plight of Dust Bowl migrants in the early thirties, won Steinbeck the 1940 Pulitzer Prize.
"But the audience saw the Goad family wearing shoes and driving a car," Steinbeck said. "They decided that this wasn't poverty. The film was withdrawn in a hurry."
He additionally cited a Communist attempt in Rome to link his name with false charges of U.S. germ warfare in Korea, to which he wrote a stinging and widely published rebuttal.
"But it's all over now," he said. "I haven't been troubled since."
But he called all writing "basically propaganda" and said that an author without a point of view "has no business writing." He said many years ago that his own writing was "about people whose lives have become tragedy through no fault of their own."
When told 'that all of his books had been translated and widely read in Japan, Steinbeck said "I hope so." He said that he was "very happy" the movie and book "East of Eden" had been well received in Japan, and added that the late James Dean's portrayal of one character "fitted my image perfectly."
The 55-year-old novelist, carrying a cane and limping from old injuries to his right leg, said that he had never been given a press reception of much size before, adding that "This is more like something you would see for Marilyn Monroe."
Steinbeck — a. notorious camera and publicity hater — said wryly that his first impression of Japan was "being blinded" by flash bulbs and television camera flood lights.
He is attending the conference as a guest and will not go with the other two authors to talks in Kyoto and Nara, he said.
He said that he "hopes" to see kabuki and other Japanese cultural attractions before returning to the U.S. He did not say when he would return.