John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, and from his early youth tried his hand at different jobs working on ranches, on a road gang, as a carpenter and as a labourer. His first published novel "Cup of Gold" (1929) was a historical romance, followed by a book of stories. "The Pastures of Heaven" (1932) and a novel "To a God Unknown" (1933) that tell of the life of Californian farmers. "Tortilla Flat" (1935) won Steinbeck popular attention with its humorous description of the life of the joyful town of Monterey. "In Dubious Battle" (1936), the story of a strike of migratory fruit pickers, was the first of his novels concerned with the living conditions of the people deprived of home and work. It was followed by "Of Mice and Men" (1937) which tells of two farmhands that walk along the roads of the USA in search of work and whose fate is that of thousands of others - they are perpetually deprived of a home for which they yearn. Steinbeck's concern with the problem of landless labourers found further and deeper expression in his novel "The Grapes of Wrath" (1939, Pulitzer Prize 1940) that mirrored the great economic crisis in the USA and subsequent depression.
During the war years Steinbeck published "The Moon is Down" (1942), a novelette dealing with the occupation of little Norwegian town by Germans. His interpretation of World War II is recorded in a series of reports collected and reprinted much later in "Once There Was a War" (1959). In 1948 Steinbeck produced "The Pearl", a story of a Mexican pearl driver; it is a lyric of work, beautiful in character and description. The years after World War II are noted for the emergence of novels, some of which are concerned with the life of small villages populated by gay hoodlums, good-for nothings, others deal with problems of ethics and morals ('The Wayward Bus'" (1947), "The Sea ofCortez" (1941), "East ofEden"( 1952)). In 1961 Steinbeck published a book of travel "Travels with in Search of America", and the novel "The Winter of Our Discontent". Steinbeck's viewpoint upon social relations is revealed in the paradox of the situation: the main character, a salesman, unhappy with the growth of his fortune.
In 1962 Steinbeck got Nobel Prize in literature.
Looking back on Steinbeck's literary activities one cannot but acknowledge that on the whole his work was distinguished by progressive tendencies. And all the more painful is the fact that in 1966 Steinbeck supported the American aggressors in Viet Nam, which mars his reputation as a humanitarian writer.