Blogs > Cliopatria > EDNA FERBER: USA and USSR CIRCA 1938

Aug 26, 2009 3:33 pm


Summertime is lighter reading time. Books are the reason I live in America. Ayn Rand's Fountainhead introduced me to wonders of modern architecture, most especially, to Frank Lloyd Wright. Edna Ferber served as my guide to the rest of the country. Giant was the reason I chose to spend my first Christmas vacation in Texas. A few days ago it occurred to me that her biography could be interesting.

The library only carried an autobiography entitled, A Peculiar Treasure, first published in 1938. Her depiction of America could be written today:

America-rather, the United States-seems to me to be the Jew among the nations. It is resourceful, adaptable, maligned, envied, feared, imposed upon. It is warmhearted, overfriendly; quick-witted, lavish, colorful; given to extravagant speech and gestures; its people are travelers and wanderers by nature; moving, shifting, restless; swarming in cars, in ocean liners, craving entertainment; volatile, the schnukle among the nations of the world.

In 1932, Ferber spent four days in the USSR and responded very similarly to Emma Goldman:

Those four days were the most completely interesting days I ever have spent anywhere in my life. And if I were very very rich (or even rich) I would ask every Communist in America to go to Russia at my expense and stay there as long as he like it. (No return fares paid.)

The North Sea would be alive with Communist swimming back. Luckily for us, Maurice Hindus and Walter Duranty both were in Moscow. Theirs were the only cheerful smiling faces I saw in my four days. Not did I see in Leningrad, Moscow of anywhere in the countryside or farmlands, one single horse, dog, or old man or woman. The grisly significance of that caused a chill to run up and down my spine.

The lady used to be a reporter and a member of the famed witty Algonquin round table.

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