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Arthur Goodfriend Papers

Oral History Transcription:

Tape II, Side B: August 18, 1997

NOTE: AG = Arthur Goodfriend; JY = Jason Yamashita; ST = Shari Tamashiro

ST:

August 18, 1997. Arthur Goodfriend Oral History Project. Arthur, this is from your journal of 1935 Russia. I guess I wanted you to read part of the journal, starting with Red Square.

AG: [AG reading]

Red Square is not a square. It is a huge rectangle, about five New York City blocks long and three wide. The Kremlin and Mausoleum to the west, St. Basil's Cathedral to the south, the state universal store [Goong?] to the east, the museum of history to the north. I watched the scene for a moment, shabby people, [hoop?] horses driven by whiskered old peasants in [ ] hats and high [ ] boots. Shawled women and clumsily dressed children. In the most poverty stricken countries I have visited, from India and China to Poland, occasionally, even frequently, one sees a natty man, a chic woman, a lovingly clothed child. In Moscow, not a single person can be thus described. A few dress above the norm. In spats, for instance, with mousy fur lined coats on the men and a battered hat on the women. But the norm is work stained, tattered, pawn brokered cast offs on the men and the woman is proud who wears a knitted tam o shanter. I walk across the square to the museum of Lenin and lean against the marble wall that surrounds it. To see again, from a new perspective, this red heart which pulses throughout the largest land on earth. A soldier shoos me off. The tomb of Lenin is closed while carpenters erect a platform where Stalin will stand to review the demonstration next Thursday. I move along and rest my book on a stone fence and start to write. Suddenly a shadow falls across the page. A cocky coated figure stands behind me. He pushes my hand away and takes the book. He speaks to me in Russian. I do not understand. Another man in civilian clothes and a rag tag looking worker joins the good looking young policeman who has my book. Another policeman in uniform, tall and clean cut, makes the group alarmingly large. People start to turn and stare. It is obvious I am in trouble. Visions of [ ], of a Russian inquisition, of a solitary cell, of thirty degree, terrorism, mysterious and final disappearance. The young policeman points to a pencil sketch of the square. The church and Kremlin I had drawn from my luncheon table. He indicates he wants it erased. I make an effort to erase it and he finally signals to stop. What he wants to know, or so I guess, is what have I written. English, I say and smile and look innocent. The man in workers garb seizes my camera. He makes motions. Had I taken any pictures? Absolutely no. I'm quite vehement on that score for indeed I had not. The young policeman takes the book, tucks it under his arm and signals for me to wait. The other policeman goes off, presumably to find someone capable of reading my script. The young policeman relents. He returns the book. He wants me not to make or take pictures in Red Square and salutes. . .I return to my hotel. Before I go to sleep, I ask myself now, at the end of my first day in Russia, what and how I feel about it all. I fear to answer. I do not know. Are there beggars in Moscow? I met three today who begged for money. But what are three beggars compared to one street in New York? Are there prostitutes in Moscow? I think I saw two, but I'm not sure. They looked at me and smiled and one sang as she went past. But these days, with my beard, I can't be certain. Perhaps they had a job of it to keep from laughing out loud. Is there poverty in Moscow? Here I feel I can say with assurance, yes. If Tsarist Russia was poorer than this, then it was poorer than anything in the world. I am told that Soviet Russia today is infinitely more prosperous than it was ten years ago. Then I am glad I didn't come here ten years ago. Russia today is so poor. I ask myself one more question before I close my eyes: "Is Russia always doomed to be poor?" Impossible of course for me to answer. If the United States were to seize the wealth of all men with over five hundred dollars and re-distribute their money equally to all men without favor, subtracting first however a great slice for a great army and another great slice for construction and public improvement and still another great slice for propaganda, wouldn't America seem as shabby and down at the heel as Russia does today? I think yes. Perhaps not because of America's head start but I do not yet know the answer to the riddle of which is better. This universal poverty of Russia or the haphazard rich and poor of America. Thus my first day ends now at midnight. I have been excited today as never before. It was the thrill of being inspected. Of seeing for myself this [past described?] people. The thrill of seeing their handiwork, the thrill of anticipating a great day to come. The seventh. And the thrill of seeing in action, the great social revolution in which so much of mankind pins its hope. None can know this thrill unless he comes here. To Russia and sees it for himself.

JY:

Let's see, in the beginning of the Russian journal, there are these images of these enlarged faces, of. . .I'm not sure if they're locations or settings that you've created. Would you be able to explain how you came up with this idea or what they represent?

AG:

When you come into a country like Russia, the Soviet Union with the intention of doing a record, a pictorial record, one of the first things you have to consider is the necessity of simplifying your task and it occurred to me from the very, very first page if I kept my media to just two colors, black and red, I would be able to capture somehow the essence of the individuals and the places I was going to portray. And so from the very beginning you see compositions composed of just black pictures, faces of individuals, of statues, of buildings and so on and illuminated by red which accents the black and of course, makes the white a third element in the composition. So on the very first page we have a picture of [Engels?] and then we come to another page which shows the Tsar. Underneath in very simple characterizations, a scroll that suggests the military power which the Tsar exercised when he was ruling Russia. On the next page, a Russian peasant and again, a little scroll of black against the red, suggestive of the agricultural plight in which Russia was seized. On the next page, another Kulaks, a man in a black turban with little pink tinge to his nose. Again, black and white and red symbolizing this with great simplicity, rendering my task very, very easy. I was not trying to do great pictures with a large palette but keeping the thing simple, it made it possible for me, page after page, minute after minute, hour after hour, to turn out a record of my experiences as I entered this very puzzling and exciting land. A picture of Stalin with again just a touch of suggestion of the factories belching smoke indicative of the industrial era which he was introducing to Russia and turning to the next page, an ordinary workman looking dejected, unhappy, poorly fed, something that characterizes the plight of the ordinary Russian and on the next page, the communist tendency, inclination, insistence on wearing badges. Always badges of the star, and the hammer, and the sickle, which everyone is supposed to wear or bow down to or otherwise recognize as the symbol of the Russia in which he or she lives.

JY:

Could you tell us about this image, its says, "Strudel, customs, my first red?"

AG:

I bought my tickets for the Soviet Union in Vienna and got on the train and the train passed through Austria and finally came to Poland and on the station platform in Krakow, I think it was, in Poland, they were selling strudel. Strudel being an apple cake. And I had a few, my last few coins of Polish money I invested in several pieces of this delicious Polish strudel. I ate some of it but there was one large piece left over which I had on the top of my duffel bag and as we entered the Soviet Union we were accosted of course by the customs man. The customs man was a very rude and stern person who looked at peoples baggage, shoved his hands into everything to explore what the contents were and in my case he shoved his hands into my duffel bag and it ran right smack into the strudel. He pulled his hand out of the duffel bag with strudel all over his hands and running all the way up to his wrist of his uniform and he was furious. He charged me with sabotage and I was remanded to the police cabinet where I was searched and where everything I had was examined for other evidence of the fact that I was, or the possibility that I was an intruder who had come to Russia to make trouble. Luckily, I had no other incriminating evidence but I missed my train, had to spend the night at [Negerellu], which [Negerellu] being the border town where this incident occurred and it was my first, it was my introduction to Russia, the beginning of a series of sad misadventures with the police who seemed somehow to be determined to make, to turn me into a quintessential criminal in the Soviet Union.

JY:

What did you think of that experience as it was happening?

AG:

Well, I was very, very frightened as to what had really, in the first place, it might have meant imprisonment. Might have meant that I would have been put into a jail without anybody knowing what had happened to me without any access to a lawyer or to a United States official who might be able to get me out of this jam that I was in. You would have to understand that in a situation like that you were surrounded by people who look upon you with great disfavor, who believe you to be poorly intentioned, believing you to have come to Russia to make trouble and the evidence that they find, such as the strudel incident, can weigh very heavily against you. And then as they examine your, the contents of your baggage, what else might their be in there. There are my records, there's my correspondence. Have I written something, have I pictured something in some way that can be construed as evidence that I am a person with malicious capitalistic intent. Well, you come into a strange place of that sort and you're surrounded by uniformed men who do not speak your language but who make it very clear through their gestures and their behavior generally that you are an enemy, you sense for the first time that you may be in deep, deep trouble from which you will not be able to extricate yourself without good fortune coming to your aid. It was a very frightening introduction to Soviet Union. One, incidentally, that did not deter me from making other mistakes because as you go through this journal you find that again and again, by taking pictures in places where I shouldn't have, by making sketches of things that were off limits, by inadvertently breaking Soviet rules I was continually on the threshold, sometimes in the midst of collisions with the law that frequently made me wonder whether or not I'd ever be able to get out of the Soviet Union alive and in one piece. It was frightening. [unsuperintended] and with us like a camera, I was taking pictures without the consent of any authority and when a new policeman came on board at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and asked me for my credentials and all I had in the way of credential was a written note by a clerk in my hotel asking that I be permitted to enter Red Square. I was immediately arrested and taken across the square to the basement of the [Goong?] Department store which had been set up as a temporary police station. There my camera was confiscated. I was put into a cell where I stayed for several hours, wondering what my fate would be because I had unquestionably taken pictures without permission of Russian armor, Russian military that could clearly convict me of a crime. I stayed there until almost midnight when, to my great surprise, I was released. The camera was returned to me and so was the film which had been taken from the camera. I couldn't understand why I was so fortunate as to be released until I got outside and held up the film toward the light of a street lamp and found that there was nothing on the film, the reason being that I had forgotten to take the cap off the lens of my Leica? and had spent all of that afternoon taking pictures without any pictures being taken. They thought that I was some sort of a fool, some sort of an idiot who they released because they didn't want to be troubled with anybody so stupid as to have behaved as I had. Now this was just one more of these numerous incidents where somewhere or other I fell afoul of Russian rules and regulations.

JY:

Generally could you explain this image? Looks like there's a factory. . .

AG:

Yeah, well this is [Stalla?], this is Russian industry factories, chimneys belching smoke. But I don't think there's really much of a story there. JY: What did you think about the communist regime at that time?

AG:

Well. What did I think of the communist regime? That was really what I was attempting to establish in this first visit. I tried to come into it with an open mind, willing to accept evidence that it was a well functioning civilization designed to assist people to overcome the terrible conditions that existed under the Tsar. A regime intended to improve the lot of the Russian people and setting an example for the rest of the world. That if Russia could improve the lot of its people, could make the worker supreme, make him prosperous, make him happy. That this would be an example for all the rest of us. But of course what happened was very, very rapidly I came to several conclusions. That the plight of the ordinary Russian and that meant almost everybody, with exception of the elites, the members of the communist party and the police and the military, the plight of the ordinary Russian worker and farmer was not only bad but almost impossible to describe. When I got out of the railroad station for the first time in Moscow, getting off the train, the entire square outside the railroad station was blanketed with dead and dying people. These were the Kulaks. K-u-l-a-k-s. The Russian landowners who had been driven off their land and driven into Moscow where they were permitted to lie in the streets to starve of. . .to die of starvation, disease and general neglect. The stench of so many dying people, the vision that one had almost immediately of great poverty and of great cruelty created a mind set that made me realize that I was in for a very, very disturbing experience. And yet I tried to keep my mind open, this was a new experiment, a social experiment. It was too early to judge. It may be that the misfortune that fell upon the people was something they deserved or something that could not be avoided. But as time went on, one thing came through very, very clearly and that is the intention of the ruling communist party to force people to think, to act, to behave in ways that were consonant with Marxism and Leninism. That these were the Russian people, people of the Soviet Union were, or at least people in Moscow and Leningrad, the only ones that I was able to observe, they were putty, they were clay being molded by a very severe and intolerant regime determined to change human nature in a mold established by Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. It made me realize that there was one thing that differentiated the United States of America from a country like communist Russia and that was the freedom that we enjoy. Freedom, incidentally, to suffer in case of misfortune or laziness or inadequacy. But nevertheless, a freedom to work our way out of our problems without the heavy handed pressure of a police state, such as existed here in communist Russia.

JY:

This image is just sort of reflective of that same thing. I think this one also.

AG:

That would be really in a way, not a very bad cartoon. What it really shows is baloney being sliced, being sliced incidentally by a bayonet. A bayonet held in the hands of a communist. And it show the baloney being sliced into three slices, one is communism, another is fascism, and another is terrorism. No matter how you slice the baloney of communism, it comes out as an intolerant regime. And as the blade of the bayonet shows, is covered with blood. "About all dictatorships, one thing is certain. No matter how you slice them, they're still [glut whoosh], blood sausage." And so on the other page [laugh], there's a picture of me waving the American flag and the caption reads, "The flag was still there." I become an incorrigibly chauvinistic American as a result of my exposure to communism.

ST:

So, this trip to Russia in 1935, was that on your own or was it under the sponsorship of anyone? Was this before you became a travel correspondent for the New York Times?

AG:

My trip around the world in 1935 was inspired by my desire to go around the world and to work for a number of clients in the men's wear, in the men's fashion field, who paid for the trip. Purpose was that I would in every country that I visited, all the way from, beginning in Japan, China, India and so on, that I would pick up materials that I could send back to them, that would be useful to them in their, designing their products and to give them sort of a promotional edge over their competition that did not have the wisdom or the wit to send someone on such an exploratory trip. So I also of course was working for the Herald Tribune, which opened up doors to me that would be closed to anybody but a bonafide reporter, which I was. So that I was able to have access to all sorts of events. The very first one, of course, you may remember being the introduction to the Emperor's garden party in Japan where I met Hirohito with rather disastrous consequences. And that made it possible for me to meet almost everybody from Mahatma Gandhi on to Adolf Hitler, Mussolini and so on. So the answer to your question would be that I had a mission which paid for the trip, and which, but more importantly which opened up me all of the opportunities coming into each of these countries with an opportunity to, with an obligation to study their systems, especially as they related to commerce, manufacturing, to retailing and wholesaling and so on. And it gave me an excuse to look into the realities of their situation as reflected in the appearance of the people, the standards of living, the availability of goods and the obviously, the political and social attitudes of the various governments. So that Russia was simply one of the countries to which I moved as I moved from the west to the east, beginning with Japan and eventually moving into of course, Asia, and winding up in Europe.

ST:

My next question has to do about perception. Talk about Japan. One of the few westerners in Japan at that time was Lafcadio Hearn, the author and he wrote stories about Japan which created a fantastic image of whimsical, exotic people which I guess created, I guess it created notions, how people saw Japan at that time. How influenced were you by things like that. Did you go to Japan, searching for that exotic Orient? With the folk tales, the fairy tales and things like that?

AG:

Well, I think like most young Americans at that time, there were two feelings about Japan. Yes, Lafcadio Hearn introduced us to the exotic Japan, the cultural Japan, one might say. The costumes, the music, the food, the customs generally and so on, which were positive, which were favorable. They gave you an appetite for what you were going to see and aroused my interest in the cultural nature of Japan. But you've got to remember that something was happening in the United States at that time. The newspapers, especially William Randolph Hearst's Evening Journal and the Hearst newspapers across the country were filled with editorials and cartoons all based on this concept of the Yellow Peril that Japan was seen in 1935 as a potential enemy. And in a way, you know, Hearst was right in the sense that Japan did eventually turn out to be the enemy. But on the other hand, one must wonder if that enemy was created by William Randolph Hearst who used his editorial discretion and his power to inflame American opinion against the Japanese. I don't think I was negatively influenced by the Japanese by Hearst. I was probably much more open-minded about the Japanese and what happened almost immediately from the moment I got off the ship in Yokohama and fell in with Japanese who introduced me to their culture in a way that I must say was rather bizarre. But it all started with her having the package of cigarettes, they were called cherry cigarettes I remember it very, very well and I in turn handed them my packets of Camels and by an exchange of cigarettes a friendship was formed, at which point they said they had to take me to a teahouse and we went to a teahouse where I had Japanese tea served in this very beautiful manner symbolizing the best of the Japanese outlook. And then going from there to a geisha house, and of course that was another aspect of Japan, my first introduction to the geisha. The total subservience of these women to the will, the whim of these Japanese men, including at that time myself. And it was an introduction of that aspect of Japan, which incidentally led to something else that was very, very big in Japan at that time, that was called the [oshawara]. The [oshawara] was the red light district and so I was led into Japan from the very first moment I arrived in Yokohama and that kept on for some momentum that kept me going on into almost every aspect of Japanese life. It was enormously interesting. Much of it was very appealing, very beautiful. But there also was something a little ominous about it and I think the ominousness came out in another little event which was this. That I became curious about the change in Japan as it was being westernized. How many people, how many Japanese were wearing kimonos and geta and tabi and Japanese clothing and how many were moving into western style clothing. And to find that out, I stood on the corner of the Ginza in Oshawara, in the middle of Tokyo with a piece of paper in my hand and a pencil marking down all of the men who went by with kimonos and all of the men who went by with jackets and ties and trousers and so on. And this excited the interest of a Japanese policeman who came over alongside of me and tried to find out what I was doing and he alerted the higher headquarters and pretty soon I was surrounded by Japanese secret service men or detectives who led me off to jail and asked me what I was doing. Was I counting soldiers? Was I counting tanks? Was I counting airplanes? What was I doing keeping of this sort. When I said I was keeping a record of the people who were wearing Japanese clothing, kimonos, tabi, and geta and the men who were wearing western clothing. They found that very, very difficult to believe and they thought that I was insane and they let me go. [laugh] But this again shows the strange proclivity I had for getting into trouble. It was all inadvertent and I was not vicious in any way, but there's are the pratfalls that a person can take when he moves from one society, one civilization into another and he is not aware of the peculiarities and the dangers that he faces. But it worked out very, very well because in the long run I came away from Japan with an enormous appreciation of its beauty, of the very positive qualities which were again reinforced when I went back years and years later when I became a student studying the Japanese educational system in the University of Kyoto.

ST:

In the way that Americans, you know, had the Yellow Peril. All those images, the contrasts of Lafcadio Hearn. What were the images and notions that people had about Russia and communism?

AG:

Well of course again we were, the Russians of course were being propagandized by their government on the positive aspects of communism and the negative aspects of capitalism. But we in the United States were undergoing the same propaganda and pressures upon us. And we must be aware of that, that no society is without these pressures. And so the press in the United States, the publicity, the movie pictures, all of the phenomena by which we were led to believe certain things were intentionally negative and the behavior of communists in the United States of course inspired fear. The bombings and there were bloody strikes and collisions between communist and police. It was a very disturbing thing which generally amounted or came down to a bias against communism. What we knew about it was generally negative unless of course we were imbued with Marxism or Leninism. That Karl Marx, you read his work and you were, you believe that he was on the right track and of course many, many people did so believe. But the lesson of the whole thing that as I look back retrospectively would be that we are always being pressured to believe one thing or another, no matter what system you're under, in which you live, not necessarily under, but in which you live, you have to be very, very careful to make distinctions between that which is true and that which is untrue and that which is propaganda and that which is educational and genuinely instructive. But there of course is where the great benefit of travel came in. I was able to make judgements of my own. What I was able to visualize. What I was able to see. The people that I was able to talk to. The thinking that I was able to do under these different circumstances, it was an enormously educational experience and that gave me a perspective on truth versus propaganda that I think has stood me in good stead for the remainder of my life.

ST:

I guess reading limited portions of your journal, in the beginning I could be wrong, but I seem to get a sense that there was almost a fear. Or that in the beginning, you might get tempted by communism or that you might be seduced into believing all of the tenets of communism. Did you have any of that in the beginning with this idea that you could be swayed to that and there was a fear of that happening?

AG:

Well that's a question that forces me to think back to what I really did believe at that time and I can't be altogether that I have an accurate answer to that question because we're dealing now with a 50 year time lapse and so on. But my effort to answer the question would be based on what I really do believe now and that is I had no tendency. But I was so fortunate. Even though the United States was undergoing a very, very serious depression in 1935, I myself for reasons that can only be explained by some deity upstairs that was determined to see that I was spared the woes of the world, I myself was doing very, very well right through the Depression. I was able to support my mother and father. My father was unemployed and I was able to rise up into positions that would pay me not only good money but enable me to go off on a trip of this sort around the world. Can you imagine that? A young man going around the world in 1935? You've got to remember something else though. That to go around the world in 1935 was something you could do at the rate pretty much the rate at 5 dollars a day. That which today would cost anywhere from 200 to 300 dollars a day. At that time I was able to do really, basically something in the neighborhood of anywhere from 5 to the utmost 10 dollars a day. That would mean travel, hotels, food, clothing, and all the rest of it. So I was very, very well positioned to do this and it was due to the fact that I was living in a society that made it possible. I had freedom to do this and what I ran into again and again as I traveled around the world was the one big thing that made us different. We were free and these other people were not. The opportunities that we had were so far more abundant then what other people were suffering.

ST:

August 18th. Oral history interview continued. This is just out of curiosity. You were going around looking for fashion ideas from all these different countries. Did you get a lot of stuff out of Russia?

AG:

Did I get any fashion ideas out of Russia. Oh, I think the answer to that would be very, very negative. There was nothing. Other countries were much more flamboyant. In other words, the Japanese, how rich that cultural is and how people were able to exhibit their traditional costumes and at the same time move into the western influence. But in moving towards the western influence they did not abandon their Japanese nature and that would be true in country after country. China was an absolute delight in the sense that, yes, they were moving into the twentieth century, but all of the centuries of the Chinese experience were all visible not only in the, obviously, the architecture but in the costumes of the people. In their eating habits and in the marvelous smells, the aromas, the quality of Chinese life is so colorful and so on. And then it just kept on going. I mean can you imagine India, what that was like. What an incredible country it was. Then going right on into places like Egypt, the ancient civilizations of that sort and then that blending into, as you left Egypt and left Turkey and moved into the Mediterranean and came to places like [Molder] and right of course, touching a place like Monaco and then moving up into France and seeing Paris and seeing Rome and Paris and London and so on. What a panorama. What an incredible array of human experience, of human activity and of human creativity. In all of these places, including Russia, this is all very, very stirring and there was a great deal to be taken from these places because they were very active commercially. Today we're thinking of a man who's just recently assassinated, Gianni Versace. Well, Europe was loaded with Gianni Versaces. I mean the fashions of the world, the styles that women wore was dictated by Paris. What men wore was determined by London. All of these countries have tremendous impact on commerce as it related to the United States. Our clothing, our styles, our chic, all was inspired by all these countries. But from Russia, nothing. From Russia we got nothing except remnants of the Tsarist civilization, which meant that some people could still wear [karicle?] hats and ermine coats, collars on their coats and so on. Other things that were remnants, more figments, more Tsarist times whereas today, the only thing that Russian men and women wore were castoffs and very pitifully poor clothing.

ST:

You published a book based on your experiences in Russia in 1935, If You Were Born in Russia. Could you talk a little about that?

AG:

Well, the book If You Were Born in Russia was not inspired by my trip, my earlier trip, it contributed a great deal of background knowledge and so on. But what happened was that after the war, when I came out of the war I was asked by a man by the name of Robert Strauss, who owned the Macy Department Store. Strauss was the Macy's Department Store, was owned by the Strauss family. I met, his name was Bob Strauss, I met Bob in the army. We were both officers in the army. He was very much impressed with my, with the work I was doing as the editor of the Stars and Stripes and the author of so many of the army's training manuals and he wanted to know whether, because of the enmity that was developing between the United States and the Soviet Union, he was wondering whether it would be a good idea for me to do a book on Russia that would explain to the American people what it was like to be a Russian. And I decided that I would do that. It was a job that I felt was worthwhile. And so based upon the experience that I had acquired and based upon the association with a man by the name of Henry Shapiro who was the top United Press correspondent in the Soviet Union, Shapiro and I with the assistance of the Soviet Society in New York City and so on were able to put together a book called, If You Were Born in Russia, which described the life of a Russian from the moment he was born in a maternity home all the way through his life until he wound up in a Soviet cemetery, enabling the reader to understand exactly what it was like to go to school, to go to kindergarten, to go to school, to get a first job, to go into the army, to go into the navy, to work in a factory, to undergo all of the life experiences that we have in the United States but in a Russian, a Communist crucible. And it was a very successful book in that it really did enable the reader to vicariously become a Russian and to see life from a Russian communist point of view. It was very well reviewed and by and large did very well.

ST:

What year did that come out?

AG:

That would have come out in. . .

ST:

1949?

AG:

'49.

ST:

Was that in an attempt to have people understand Russians and Communism?

AG:

Well that was the entire purpose. It was predicated on the very good idea that I think Bob Strauss had, in which I agree. The United States. . .American people could not deal with communism unless they understood it. What was it like to become a communist? What was it like to be born in the Soviet Union? If you were born in Russia what kind of a person would you be? And you would then be able to know from the time you entered kindergarten and started reading Soviet newspapers and started to read Soviet books and started seeing Soviet movies and reading newspapers and going through the whole life cycle, you would be that kind of a person. You knew exactly who that person would be and in this particular case, the person was an adversary. We were seeing these people as a threat to our own survival. It was very necessary to know what these people were like but in doing the book we did not deal with them as adversaries, we dealt with them as human beings. It was simply, this is what it was like to be born, to grow up, to go to school, to get a job, to get married, to get sick, and to die and be buried in another society totally different from your own but now you understand what it was like to be that kind of a person and you'd understand how they see you, the American. That's the way you appear in their eyes. And I think its very necessary that we do that in the case of any. . .I really thought it would be the beginning of a series of books. If You Were Born in Russia would be followed by If You Were Born in India, If You Were Born in France, If You Were Born in Argentina. But I got carried off by so many other jobs, that we never were able to move off into. . .but in a way I regret that. That would have been a wonderful series if we had really. . .If the American people had access to a whole series of books on If You Were Born in Cambodia.

ST:

What did you think of all that. . .the McCarthy Period and all of the anti-Communist sentiment going around?

AG:

Well I thought it was, like so many others I'm sure, it was disgraceful. It was something coming into the United States that was exactly what I disliked very much when I was in countries like Germany under Hitler, where you could see exactly this frame of mind, this attitude, this poison, disrupting an ancient civilization being turned into hothouses of hatred. It was a very disturbing thing of course, to see this going on in. . .of course by this time, it was happening in China too. So that in China and in the Soviet Union and in Germany. And Germany was now spilling into Austria, I was able to see the beginnings of certainly of World War II.

ST:

So was that first Russia trip enjoyable? Or was there always an underlying sense of fear, of I guess, imprisonment or just the whole aura of the place?

AG:

It's a very interesting question because the only answer would be, yes it was very enjoyable but it was very enjoyable because there was an element of fear. When you are a tourist, blithely going through a country, let us say like France, encountering absolutely nothing else but good food and good entertainment and everything working out in a very positive way, yes it's very nice and you enjoy it and there's no question that you're pleased and so on. But it lacks a certain tang, a certain zest, a certain flavor that only fear can convey. If there's a little bit of that, if you have to be careful about what you're doing and who's watching you and what mistakes you're apt to make and then making the mistake, paying the penalty. . .this adds a flavor, just as pepper or tabasco sauce adds flavor to a bland meal. Ordinary travel, as a matter of fact, for most people I really do believe in a sense is bland. People go to Europe, you know, they have a wonderful time. They go to very good hotels or charming inns and they eat extra-ordinarily good food and they drink lots of wine, more than they normally would and they live in a very euphoric situation. But it's bland in the sense that it has no elements in it that demands behavior of a certain kind that make you alert to possibilities that might not be quite as salubrious as you would like to have happen. It adds an element of flavor, of zest, of excitement, of adventure to something that otherwise would be nothing else but a journey through serendipity and I think that the fact that I felt in countries like Russia and in Germany, I felt fear, that added a great deal of significance to the experience, which without fear would have been much less engaging.

ST:

So I guess that leads us to the next question. You took a later trip to Russia. When was that?

AG:

That was 1983.

ST:

1983. This is a very broad question but I guess, how did the two trips compare generally?

AG:

Well, the first trip in 1935, in the first place I was much younger. Russia, the communist regime was much younger, the communist regime in 1935 was only something like 15 years in existence. If the revolution was in 1917. . .1927. Yeah. It was a very young situation in Russia. And it was part of an around the world trip in which I was wide open to all kinds of information and particularly I was concerned with any ideas that I would be able to get for the benefit of the people who were paying for the trip, these manufacturers and others who were paying for the trip and the New York Herald Tribune. But when I went to Moscow, to Russia, in 1983 it was a totally different purpose. I was at Cambridge University studying the English educational system and how the English educational system impinged upon Americans who were the pilgrims that came from England, many of them coming from Cambridge to the United States and it was. . .I was there to study all of that so I had an educational purpose in England. While I was in Cambridge, they set up a trip to the Soviet Union to study the Soviet educational system. I was in the school of education, I was in Hughes Hall at Cambridge studying education. And when this trip came up, to be able to go to Russia to study the Russian educational system, I grabbed onto that and joined the so-called tour. And the tour was totally oriented toward education. It was going in to study the kindergartens, the elementary schools, the high schools, the university system and then all of the other things that impinged on education. The youth movements, the so-called boys scouts and girl scouts and the palaces of culture and so on. All of those things that made, that educated or presumably educated Russian youth and so that meant that I was, that we were in this group that opened up all of these opportunities. You were able to talk to people at every level of Russian education in Moscow and in Leningrad. And it was a very evocative, very illuminating tour. Even though of course we were subjected totally to the propaganda attitudes of the people we were talking to. But they revealed a good deal about Russian education that gave a good balanced view. We were able to achieve that balance by discussion among ourselves and to really compare notes on what we were told and what we observed and then what we thought about it and so on. A very useful, a very interesting experience but totally different from the earlier one because this one had a very, I shouldn't say narrow focus because education is anything but narrow, but nevertheless it did have that directly as its focus.

ST:

Okay. Did you have any questions?

JY:

I guess when we were looking at the journal we just noticed that you started using more collage and it's a lot more colorful than the previous journal about Russia, too.

ST:

So did you run into any problems in Russia in '83?

AG:

Let me think. Is that a question. . .is that on the record?

ST:

Sure.

AG:

No. The answer is no. No problems that I can think of. No. It was all organized and so on so I can't think of anything. Nothing. These terrible things that happened the first time, starting with strudel, there was no strudel in 1983 so everything I think worked out very well and you more or less were part of a group and the group, the behavior of the group is pretty well determined by the fact that we were operating under the auspices of the British government and the Russian government and so you were very well taken care of.

JY:

Also, you're using a lot of marker and not as much watercolor. I was just wondering about, I guess artistically, what direction you were taking at this point?

AG:

Well Jason I'm very glad you raised this question because it's something that bothers me very, very much. There's a big difference in the quality of these various journals and a lot of that quality had to do with the materials, the instruments that I was using, the pens, the paints, the paper and so on. And the best of these journals are those made of very, very good paper and which I was working with watercolor or with paints rather than with markers. But then in certain places, at certain times I fell into the marker business. The marker being these pastel felt tip things that give you very, very vivid colors but there's absolutely no delicacy. You cannot control them, all you do with the blue, you register the color of blue that comes out of the marker. You can't blend it, you can't in any way moderate it with water or turn it into what I believe to be, in some cases, some pretty good painting. Therefore I'm very disappointed in a book like this so far as its artist quality is concerned. You can see everything is done very, very hastily. There's no subtlety, there is a reporting, a reportorial intent. In other words, here I try to capture the buffet in the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall and so on. Yes, I've done that with a picture of Lenin here and the people at the buffet here and the people milling around sitting and drinking tea and talking and so on. Yes, I've got the reportage but I certainly have no aesthetic quality in this at all and I blame two things. I blame first of all myself for having lapsed into this very poor medium and I blame the medium itself which is does not lend itself to quality material. In pictures like this, yes, I credit myself with having tried to capture these children and in the pen and ink aspect of it, which is the simplest thing, yes, you capture that in the pen and ink and then you add the color and all you get are these strong, undifferentiated colors simply as it comes out. The yellow from the tube. Blue from the marker and so on. And there is no, nothing that I feel good about so far as its artistic quality.

JY:

What about these images where you've combined drawing on top of pictures.

AG:

Now that introduces something that I think people ought to really, more people ought to be able to do. Everybody, in the first place let me say that so many people will come to a place like Leningrad and will take out their cameras and will photograph the Imperial Palace. I don't know why they do that because you can buy much better postcards of the Imperial Palace than you can take with a picture. You are an amateur but the people who took that picture were professionals. So for a matter of a kopeck, for maybe a penny, you can buy a picture of the Imperial Palace. But then that has absolutely no significance other than the fact that it is a picture postcard. What you then do is by taking out your paints and here incidentally I am using some paints, you can throw in mood as it relates to the clouds and the sky. You can throw in shadows of the Russian. . .of the soldiers marching across the square. You get a little sense of fire, of war, of danger and so on. Here in this picture of the cathedral in Leningrad, by superimposing a sketch of fascism reaching over to destroy communism, you can add something to the penny picture postcard. So why take a picture of the phenomenon that you are interested in, when you can buy so cheaply and save yourself so much money in terms of film and development and so on and so forth? Why not buy the postcard and then add something to the postcard that's imaginative, that's provocative, that relates historically to the significance of the situation. And so again and again, I'm rather pleased by the fact that I was able to utilize this montage effect that adds to a static picture of a piece of architecture some significance. The fact that here Hitler is reaching out to destroy a monument that symbolizes the Russian experience. Here again the palace and in the foreground the Russian soldiers marching. Now the Russia soldiers are not in the picture, you add that and therefore that which is a commercial thing suddenly takes on a personal dimension which you can add simply by a few little deft additions.

ST:

It's very striking.

AG:

Right. Here is the famous ship of the revolution and so on. And again by introducing with just a little bit of white paint, a hint of Lenin's presence as it influences this vessel. The opportunities of that sort which have a lot of significance. Not only does it add a great deal of meaning to the experience, to the thing you are trying to illustrate, but it changes a passive thing into a very positive and a very creative thing. You're adding something. You're giving birth to something that didn't exist before and I find that that really is one of the things that I really admire, if I may say so, in so much of what I did. I was never content with what I was received. I always wanted to add something to it that gave it contemporary meaning as it emanated from my own spirit, my own mind and this is done again and again especially here in this Russian book.

ST:

Actually from 1935 to this 1983 you see this huge change, a drastic change in your style. Was it a gradually process? When do you mark it? AG: You know, really, when I look at these things it seems to me to be very erratic. Many of these books, I really feel, are filled with very credible artwork. Every once in a while it goes into a deep despond, a deep depth. I would say, by and large, this Russian book is not one that I am very proud of. You'd have to look at another thing that I did. I took a trip with my son through England and Scotland. The quality of the painting that I did then is exceptionally good. I'm very, very proud. It will not pass muster in terms of great art as art is defined by the people who qualify art, with whom incidentally I largely disagree. They are paintings which I am really very proud. They somehow epitomize the joy that I felt in the moment. The appreciation I felt over the scene that I was witnessing that compelled me to slow down instead of just going on to devote the 15 minutes or the 20 minutes or the half an hour to make the sketch. And the sketch is something that I really believe is worthy of respect. And there were, many of these journals in Japan, in China, in India do contain art that I think is commendable. Every once in a while I find my stuff lapsing into things that I think are almost disgraceful in their quality and to a degree that's true of the Russian book. And there are others I can point later that really I just wonder how bad, why I was doing as badly as I did. I think a lot of it had to do with two things. One of it would be haste. There was no time to do a better job and the other was there was something about the material that did not inspire me to linger long enough to do a [credible] work. But that's all beside the point. I think that the point of this whole thing is that always I was keeping a record and it is the maintenance of the record that I insist on is the point of my life. That I did not ever let an incident go by that I did not feel deserved the respect that would be manifested by something I wrote, something that I sketched, something that I created. And that really in a way, I would say, would be the motivation of this whole exercise that we're involved in. Other people should be doing this because if you don't do it, you're going to forget it or it's going to have no meaning whatsoever to you as you look at the grand pattern of your life. There will be no relationship, no linkage between events that took place then and then the gradual development of your mind and your attitude and your outlook and so on. You would simply [have] drifted from one place to another, leaving absolutely no record, no mark. You might not have even existed. I mean why stick around? Why did you live? Why are you boring me with your existence when you never felt enough about it to make a comment on it? And if you made a comment on it, it would be vapor coming out of your mouth. It would disappear and so on. Did you leave anything for your child? Did you leave anything for your fellow citizens? Did you leave anything for posterity? Unless you've done that, what really has been the purpose of your existence on this earth? And now here I am lecturing you. [laughter].

JY:

This journal, though, seems like it has a lot of accounts of various people you met. AG: Oh yes, no question about that.

JY:

So, sentimental value. . .meeting those people. AG: Oh, absolutely. JY: There's lots of names. . .

AG:

Yes, I noticed this. . .I think, is that here?

JY:

Drawings of the students?

AG:

Yeah, yeah, right. I drew pictures of all of the people on the tour. My intention was to get them all to write something but it never worked out that way. But these are the people on the. . .and incidentally, these little pen and ink sketches, I think, are much better than things that I was able to do with markers. Here apparently, is some. . .

JY:

This is a watercolor.

AG:

It is a watercolor. And it takes on a certain quality that the marker doesn't have. That was the famous jail where. . .

JY:

The land, a view from afar?

AG:

Yeah, that's right. This jail was in this. . .in St. Peters?

ST:

There are flowers?

AG:

Well somebody left a flower there because it was, I think that it was occupied by Lenin. And now here incidentally is not a bad marker thing. This is a kid, a Russian kid. But basically the quality of this picture is largely the pen and ink. Which has a certain movement into it. That I think is good. I would be better if I hadn't been using markers but in this particular case all you're doing is doing the blue jeans and the yellow coat and the so on. . .but again I would say that we get down to a definition of art. What is art? Is art something, a picture that you hang on the wall? In a museum? Or that you buy to make your house look expensive and so on and so forth? Or is art something inside of you. . .something in your mind, in your heart, in your soul that demands expression? And it doesn't make any difference if it's a great picture or not a great picture. The point is, it is a piece of you that emanates and survives because you've had the audacity that put it down on a piece of paper. The quality is not the important thing, it's the impulse that is the important thing. And the fact that something exists that will outlive you, this will be around a hundred years after I'm dead and that little boy will be evidence of my, of his existence, as well as my own.

JY:

In one of your early journals, trip around the world journals, you had a lot of renderings of various architectural places. How do you see that as a process and between that or using pictures or visuals in the collage form?

AG:

Well again I think that anything you can do that will expedite, that will be useful to you to maintaining the record is something that you ought to use. That's the reason why I really believe, I hope this is does not seem as if I'm against photography and so on, but the great pictures really have been taken of these places. So therefore, why not take these things that come to you free of charge. They come in travel brochures, they come in picture postcards, where for a penny you can buy the best pictures of any situation. Now what you cannot do, in shopping for things like that, you cannot get pictures of your friends or incidents or of things that relate to your presence there. At that particular point, the camera is justified. But only if you're wise enough to take pictures of, there's a difference between going to Egypt and taking a picture of the Sphinx. Now the Sphinx has been pictured ever since Napoleon was there and my god, billions of pictures of the Sphinx. Why take another picture of the Sphinx? But if on the other hand, you are there with your wife and she's on a camel and you can get a picture of your wife on a camel with a Sphinx in the background, I think that becomes a thing of the moment which is very precious and I think it justifies it. So in answering your question, I would say, yes, in order to capture the place, the geography of the situation, the architecture, whatever it might be, yes, I would use what was available to me that I could paste in the book and it would save me the trouble of drawing and so on. But having done that, that released me to use what energy I had to do the original that could not be purchased in the stationary store or whatever it might be and that's the difference between. . .it's a utilization of time, of money, and what I regard as a sensible ways of artist record keeping is concerned. I want to mention while we're on that subject, that unless I do it now I may forget, and that is when you buy a picture postcard and you intend to use it in your book, it is very important that you peel off the cardboard behind the picture. Oh, this incidentally is very, very true of any photograph. . .Is there a photograph that I can have? Yeah. Let me show you something. Here is a photograph which a friend of mine, that if I was to put this in a book let me show you what I would do. A book has a binding and if you pile too heavy things in that book, you're going to break the binding. First thing you have to do if you buy a picture postcard or even a photograph of this sort. You have to separate the picture from the card behind it and that immediately gives you a very thin [peeling off backing] This really is a secret, this really is the secret of keeping a record. This can go into the book, this can be pasted down without putting any pressures whatsoever on the binding. And then you do something else. You can take this thing and by. . .you can change it from any, from an ordinary photograph, which is always an oblong and so on, and you can emphasize the important thing, which is the statue and the man and turn it into an original thing. Well, what I've just done is really something that ought to be taught. When people go on trips and so on. They ought to learn about a thing like this because a thing like this will make all the difference in whether you have what is a photographic album which is stiff and hard and lumpy and so on and be able to do the sort of things that I've done which is to fill a book without breaking the binding by peeling off the. . .

JY:

So it personalizes it even further.

AG:

Exactly, it personalizes it. Right.

ST:

So that's for picture and postcards that you rip off the back?

AG:

Yup, right.

ST:

Well that is neat.

JY:

What about combining photographs and images? Taken photographs. . .have you done that in the process of putting collages together?

AG:

Have I. . .in other words collage. . .

JY:

Putting two pictures together.

AG:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes. There's a very, very good example, I think, in my book. You may come across it. But there's something where I talk about Paris and it's a picture of Venus de Milo, to which I've added the black stockinged legs and the arms and so on and so forth. It's a very good example of a collage. You apparently remember it. To me that's a pretty good example of humor, but it's also a piece of Paris. Because Paris is a combination of the Louvre, which is symbolized by Venus an so and then adding the Follies [Bigere?] and all of the night life, with the girls. It's a very good example of the combination of. . .plus something else, if I may say so. . .and that is a little effort at humor, at wit, originality. Getting away from the stereotype of pictures and things and so on.

[END]

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