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Mikhail Sholokhov in the USA

13.09.2019

September 15-27, 1959 the first official visit of the head of the USSR Nikita Khrushchev to the United States was in the history of Soviet-American relations. Mikhail Sholokhov and his wife were included in the official delegation along with key ministers, leaders of some regions, and journalists.

Mikhail Sholokhov was going to visit America in the 1930s, when he corresponded with Theodore Dreiser, and they planned a meeting in America. But then the outbreak of the Second World War prevented this.

The Sholokhovs kept the delegation aloof. They participated in some events with everyone, but more often followed a special program. From the memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev: “... I don’t remember whether Sholokhov traveled with us around the country, it seems, not, but he was with us in only a few cities. He wished to be in Washington, apparently, to meet with the writers”.

Mikhail Sholokhov met with prose writer Erskine Caldwell. Their first meeting took place in 1941 and left a bright mark in Caldwell's memory. He wrote about this in his telegram, inviting Mikhail Sholokhov to his house: “I welcome you. In memory of our Moscow 1941 meeting, I invite you to my home in San Francisco for breakfast on the morning of September 27th. I would be grateful for the answer. Friendly - Erskine Caldwell. " Erskine Caldwell presented Mikhail Sholokhov his book on the writing work “Call It Experience” with a dedicatory inscription.

A meeting of Mikhail Sholokhov with American writers and intellectuals was held in the building of the American Council for Parenting. Sholokhov was questioned about his work, the circumstance in Soviet literature, and the nature of its development.

As part of the delegation, the Sholokhovs visited the George Washington House-Museum in Mount Vernon. After visiting the museum, a dinner was arranged at the home of Assistant Secretary of State Robert Thayer, at which the head of the publishing company “Alfred Knopf” Harding Lemey, presented the writer exemplars of the books “And Quiet Flows the Don” and “Virgin Soil Upturned” that had just been released in English. Sholokhov presented Thayer the first book of “And Quiet Flows the Don”.

Getting acquainted with America Mikhail Sholokhov looked with interest at everything that fell into his field of vision, paid much attention, but protocol meetings did not correspond to his interests. He set himself the task of familiarizing himself primarily with American culture, and there were not so many associated with it in the program. USSR Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko asked: “Will this trip, Mikhail Alexandrovich, help you, as a writer, in the sense of creative discoveries?” Mikhail Sholokhov answered: “I don’t think so. It is unlikely to be useful for my work and will not add anything to it. The world of my characters is Don, my homeland, my villages and cities. <...> But the trip is generally interesting. I need to see the world".

In one of the conversations with Andrei Gromyko, the writer said: “Here there are achievements in the field of technology, and considerable ones. And in the field of culture, so far I have seen only entertainment. Where is that genuine humanistic culture that should only meet the interests of the people?” But the general conclusion from this trip was categorical: “... as for the field of culture, we have nothing to learn from the Americans!”

Following the results of Khrushchev’s American visit to the USSR, a number of books were published containing a description of his trip. For the book "Face to Face with America," the entire team of authors received the Lenin Prize. Mikhail Sholokhov was not among these authors. He did not publicly express his impressions of the trip and refused to write anything for the final collection, which was conceived as a glorification of the head of the party and state.

 

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