To a God Unknown

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Overview

Ancient pagan beliefs, the great Greek epics, and the Bible all inform this extraordinary novel by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, which occupied him for more than five difficult years. While fulfilling his dead father’s dream of creating a prosperous farm in California, Joseph Wayne comes to believe that a magnificent tree on the farm embodies his father’s spirit. His brothers and their families share in Joseph’s prosperity, and the farm flourishes—until one brother, frightened by Joseph’s pagan belief, kills...

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To a God Unknown

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Overview

Ancient pagan beliefs, the great Greek epics, and the Bible all inform this extraordinary novel by Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck, which occupied him for more than five difficult years. While fulfilling his dead father’s dream of creating a prosperous farm in California, Joseph Wayne comes to believe that a magnificent tree on the farm embodies his father’s spirit. His brothers and their families share in Joseph’s prosperity, and the farm flourishes—until one brother, frightened by Joseph’s pagan belief, kills the tree, allowing disease and famine to descend on the farm. Set in familiar Steinbeck country, To a God Unknown is a mystical tale, exploring one man’s attempt to control the forces of nature and, ultimately, to understand the ways of God and the forces of the unconscious within. This edition features an introduction and notes by Steinbeck scholar Robert DeMott.
 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140187519
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/28/1995
  • Series: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 270,683
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 7.87 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

John Steinbeck
Chronicling American dreams destroyed by either injustice or the simple difficulty of the world, John Steinbeck left lasting testaments to the struggles of working people in The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row. His refusal to water down his realistic work got some of his books banned – and earned him a Nobel Prize.

Biography

John Ernst Steinbeck, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in Salinas, California February 27, 1902. His father, John Steinbeck, served as Monterey County Treasurer for many years. His mother, Olive Hamilton, was a former schoolteacher who developed in him a love of literature. Young Steinbeck came to know the Salinas Valley well, working as a hired hand on nearby ranches in Monterey County. In 1919, he graduated from Salinas High School as president of his class and entered Stanford University majoring in English. Stanford did not claim his undivided attention. During this time he attended only sporadically while working at a variety jobs including on with the Big Sur highway project, and one at Spreckels Sugar Company near Salinas.

Steinbeck left Stanford permanently in 1925 to pursue a career in writing in New York City. He was unsuccessful and returned, disappointed, to California the following year. Though his first novel, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929, it attracted little literary attention. Two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To A God Unknown, met the same fate.

After moving to the Monterey Peninsula in 1930, Steinbeck and his new wife, Carol Henning, made their home in Pacific Grove. Here, not far from famed Cannery Row, heart of the California sardine industry, Steinbeck found material he would later use for two more works, Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row.

With Tortilla Flat (1935), Steinbeck's career took a decidedly positive turn, receiving the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal. He felt encouraged to continue writing, relying on extensive research and personal observation of the human drama for his stories. In 1937, Of Mice and Men was published. Two years later, the novel was produced on Broadway and made into a movie. In 1940, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Grapes of Wrath, bringing to public attention the plight of dispossessed farmers.

After Steinbeck and Henning divorced in 1942, he married Gwyndolyn Conger. The couple moved to New York City and had two sons, Thomas and two years later, John. During the war years, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches reappeared in Once There Was A War. In 1945, Steinbeck published Cannery Row and continued to write prolifically, producing plays, short stories and film scripts. In 1950, he married Elaine Anderson Scott and they remained together until his death.

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "...for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and keen social perception.." In his acceptance speech, Steinbeck summarized what he sought to achieve through his works:

"...Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it and it has not changed except to become more needed. The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species...Further more, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity of greatness of heart and spirit—gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and emulation. I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature..."

Steinbeck remained a private person, shunning publicity and moving frequently in his search for privacy. He died on December 20, 1968 in New York City, where he and his family made a home. But his final resting place was the valley he had written about with such passion. At his request, his ashes were interred in the Garden of Memories cemetery in Salinas. He is survived by his son, Thomas.

Author biography courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Amnesia Glasscock
      John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (full name); Amnesia Glasscock
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 27, 1902
    2. Place of Birth:
      Salinas, California
    1. Date of Death:
      December 20, 1968
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2008

    Great

    This story is great, i always read books but one day my father explained to me that there is a 2nd meaning to story one that is visible to many and when u understand the 2nd meaning of this book it's just great, nuthing more or less

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 14, 2012

    Steinbeck is my favorite author, and this is definitely a great

    Steinbeck is my favorite author, and this is definitely a great book. That said, it's one of his weaker ones. It has its share of tragedy and deeper moments, but I felt the overall tone failed to achieve the type of impact this work should have had. The story involves a man and his extended family farming the fickle land in a river valley in central California, a familiar landscape for any reader of Steinbeck's. If you've read and loved other Steinbeck books, as I have, I definitely recommend this book, but don't start here- Of Mice and Men or The Grapes of Wrath is better for that.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2003

    The crowd goes wild!!

    Steinbeck at his best. It is very obvious that he is truly one of the great American writers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2002

    Man and Earth as one

    This book shows the bond between man and his land. It is well written and exceptionaly well captured. This book is thought provoking but aswell very tragic. I would recommend it to anyone who wishes to farm or write.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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