The Moon Is Down

The Moon Is Down


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Occupied by enemy troops, a small, peaceable town comes face-to-face with evil imposed from the outside—and betrayal born within the close-knit community

A Penguin Classic

In this masterful tale set in Norway during World War II, Steinbeck explores the effects of invasion on both the conquered and the conquerors. As he delves into the emotions of the German commander and the Norwegian traitor, and depicts the spirited patriotism of the Norwegian underground, Steinbeck uncovers profound, often unsettling truths about war—and about human nature.

Nobel Prize winner John Steinbeck’s self-described “celebration of the durability of democracy” had an extraordinary impact as Allied propaganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to suppress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of the book was punishable by death), The Moon is Down was secretly translated into French, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, German, Italian and Russian; hundreds of thousands of copies circulated throughout Europe, making it by far the most popular piece of propaganda under the occupation. Few literary works of our time have demonstrated so triumphantly the power of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force. This edition features an introduction by Donald V. Coers.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140187465
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/28/1995
Series: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics Series
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 62,529
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).
After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942).Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright(1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961),Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata!(1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures. 

Date of Birth:

February 27, 1902

Date of Death:

December 20, 1968

Place of Birth:

Salinas, California

Place of Death:

New York, New York


Attended Stanford University intermittently between 1919 and 1925

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

John Steinbeck knew and understood America and Americans better than any other writer of the twentieth century. (The Dallas Morning News) A man whose work was equal to the vast social themes that drove him. (Don DeLillo)"

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The Moon Is Down 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Janus More than 1 year ago
Simply a masterpiece. A review cannot do this work of literature justice. Steinbeck's perfect prose and amazing understanding of humanity and its civilizations make this one of the most eerily realistic works of fiction I have ever read. The characters are essentially: The Conquerors and The Conquered. Each possessing of an array of different people with different personalities and quirks. It's a short, easy read that is as enjoyable as literature as it is a piece of commentary.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Moon Is Down is an inspiring tale that illustrates both sides of a war. The Nazis act as if they are in control of the situation, but because they are concentrating on the war so intensely, they have no idea how it is affecting them. The soldiers begin to become terrorized by the war. I like how John Steinbeck shows empathy for these men of war and prove that underneath their rugged uniform is just another human being with human qualities. I found it boring how Steinbeck just directly stated the characters' personalities and what their history was. It would've made the book more interesting if Steinbeck gave inferences and let you draw your own conclusions about the characters. I especially enjoyed Steinbeck twist in his story when the soldiers turned into the victims and the citizens became the villains and made the soldiers fear them. I felt that Mayor Orden is the ideal politician that all politicians should strive to become. He shows zero trepidation when the soldiers are entering his house and he never made a single move without the consent of what the townspeople would want. As they are holding a gun to his head and are about to kill him he still never gives in to what the Nazis want. The thing that I found to be very strange was the amount of trust that the citizens had in Mayor Orden. Never did they once test his leadership skills. Even in today's society this is extremely unlikely. There are usually a few people who are on both sides to what the government is doing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I would consider this novel a great work by author John Steinbeck. Though it may come across as overly simplistic at first, it is this simplicity that makes it so deep. The novel depicts both sides of war, that of the conquerors and the conquered. The novel, which was written as anti-Nazi propaganda, surprisingly depicts the German soldiers as human beings with feelings just like the villagers, as opposed to cruel heartless savages. In my opinion this is what makes the book so spectacular. By depicting the Nazis as normal people, it gives the novel a greater sense of reality and allows the reader to feel more of a relation to the characters. Not only do the Nazis have feelings, but more importantly, they have weaknesses too. Steinbeck describes their fear of the townspeople and how, though they are the individuals conquering the town, they are frightened of its inhabitants and wish to return home. I find this to be quite an interesting and effective approach in the work. In most cases, propaganda would depict the enemy as a villain, but Steinbeck depicts them as nothing more than weak, unstable individuals, giving his readers a feeling of confidence. Also, in an effort to help his readers relate to the book, the story takes place in an unnamed town in an unnamed country. This is quite ingenious because it allows any reader to see themselves in the story. The novel itself is essentially about nothing more than the two viewpoints of war, but the method which this is done is what makes it a masterpiece. Steinbeck¿s way of depicting neither side as an enemy is masterful and unique making the novel a piece to be not only enjoyed but respected.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is excellent because it shows a world inwhich there are no 'evil' people even in times of war. Steinbeck makes the towns people develop. He has motifs and archetypes in his novels. The novel has a lot of action making it interesting to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Has anybody else noticed that Steinbeck's fable of occupation and resistance sounds a lot like what must be going on in Iraq these days? How ironic that America, once the liberator, is now the occupier. As i read this short novel, I could imagine U.S. soldiers in Baghdad experiencing similar feelings as the Nazi soldiers -- I appreciate how Steinbeck compassionately painted their humanity too, as well as their cruelty. War does indeed to horrible things to everybody, on all sides. Excellent read.
Crazymamie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was originally published during WWII and was very successful as propaganda for the Allied powers. It was, in fact, so successful that merely being in possession of it in Italy during that time could get the owner sentenced to death. This is not vintage Steinbeck because it was part of the war effort - the book was published for specific purposes with a clear message and a target audience. Still, there are Steinbeck moments that creep in, for example, Steinbeck's description of the mayor and his wife in the small town in Europe that is newly occupied by Nazi forces:"The door to the left opened and Mayor Orden came in; he was digging in his right ear with his little finger. He was dressed in his official morning coat, with his chain of office about his neck. He had a large, white, spraying mustache and two smaller ones, one over each eye. His white hair was so recently brushed that only now were the hairs struggling to be free, to stand up again. He had been Mayor for so long that he was the Idea-Mayor in the town. Even grown people when they saw the word "mayor," printed or written, saw Mayor Orden in their minds. He and his office were one. It had given him dignity and he had given it warmth. From behind him Madame emerged, small and wrinkled and fierce. She considered that she had created this man out of whole cloth, had thought him up, and she was sure that she could do a better job if she had it to do again. Only once or twice in her life had she ever understood all of him, but the part of him which she knew, she knew intricately and well. No little appetite or pain, no carelessness or meanness in him escaped her; no thought or dream or longing in him ever reached her. And yet several times in her life she had seen the stars."I liked this small book (it is only 112 pages) and I liked its message: you are not beaten until you give up. It reminded me of that moment in the movie Casablanca where the Nazis are singing in Rick's Cafe and Victor Laszlo, a Czech resistance leader, walks over to the band to tell them to play "La Marseillaise." He must sing alone at first, but then the other patrons stand and join in the singing, drowning out the Nazis. The bar is then ordered closed, but that moment of rebellion has united the people, and you just know that there will be other moments of rebellion, that they will refuse to be broken.
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck is a small gem of simplification whereby he shows that being the conqueror isn¿t quite the pretty picture of victory that many believe. A seemingly easy invasion has this army celebrating it¿s victory and making plans for the future. They slowly become aware that although this country has lost the battle, the war goes on. The populace is sullen and proud, and the conquerors dare not turn their backs. Soldiers who go out on their own seldom return. Reprisals only seem to make the people more determined to quietly fight on for the freedom they have lost.Published in 1942, this propaganda piece tells the story of the military occupation of a small mining town, bringing to mind the invasion of Norway by the Germans during World War II. Without specifically naming the Nazi¿s, this is obviously a literary work that was meant to inspire and motive the resistance movement throughout Europe.Steinbeck writes of the trials and tribulations of both the oppressed and the oppressor, and he avoids the trap of making the Germans unnecessarily evil and the Norwegians overly heroic. Yet, evil is present and the heroic quietly stand tall. These are real people caught up in the drama of war, his characters from the gentle, patriotic mayor to the intelligent, conflicted enemy commander are well drawn and vividly portray the anguish and brutality that war and occupation brings to ordinary people.
ccookie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First line:~ By ten-forty-five it was all over ~Short, but powerful!I read that this was written as propaganda to encourage the occupied countries in Europe to engage in resistance activities against the Germans. Reading it from my perspective, I found this book to be so much more than that. Steinbeck did a good job of actually humanizing the invaders and allowing the reader to see that the 'bad' guys are pretty much the same as the 'good' guys.Some of my favourite passages:Steinbeck comments on the futility of war:`Lanser had been in Belgium and France twenty years before and he tried not to think what he knew that war, is treachery and hatred, the muddling of incompetent generals, the torture and killing and sickness and tiredness, until at last it is over and nothing has changed except for new weariness and new hatreds. Lanser told himself he was a soldier, given orders to carry out. He was not expected to question or to think, but only to carry out orders; and he tried to put aside the sick memories of the other war and the certainty that this would be the same. This one will be different, he said to himself fifty times a day; this one will be very different.¿...'We told them they were brighter and braver than other young men. It was a kind of shock to them to find out that they aren't a bit braver or brighter than other young men.'About resistance:Mayor Orden whose town has been occupied, says to Colonel Lanser:'There is no law between you and us. This is war. Don't you know you will have to kill all of us or we in time will kill all of you? You destroyed the law when you came in, and a new law took its place. Don't you know that?'...'And over the town there hung a blackness that was deeper than the cloud, and over the town there hung a sullenness and a dry, growing hatred ¿ the people of the conquered country settled in a slow, silent, waiting revenge ¿ the cold hatred grew with the winter, the silent, sullen hatred, the waiting hatred.'Poignant description of the loneliness of the soldiers who are away from home:`Their talk was of friends and relatives who loved them and their longings were for warmth and love, because a man can be a soldier for only so many hours a day and for only so many months in a year, and then he wants to be a man again, wants girls and drinks and music and laughter and ease, and when these are cut off, they become irresistibly desirable. And the men thought always of home.¿¿ 'gradually a little fear began to grow in the conquerors, a fear that it would never be over, that they could never relax or go home, a fear that one day they would crack and be hunted through the mountains like rabbits, for the conquered never relaxed their hatred.'...'Thus it came about that the conquerors grew afraid of the conquered'¿'I'm lonely to the point of illness. I'm lonely in the quiet and the hatred.'His language is beautiful.I can't wait for more Steinbeck! Onward to the Grapes of Wrath
edwinbcn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Readers and commentators make a lot noise about the didactic value of The moon is down, and apparently originally regretted that Steinbeck portrays the oppressors in the book as human rather than monstrous. It seems these commentators forget that literature often serves a didactic purpose, intentionally or unintentionally.The moon is down tells the story how a village is conquered and occupied by a alien army force, which then puts the villagers to work to extract coal to support the needs of the occupying army. The story is wryly humourous. The oppressors are portrayed as civilised and orderly, but rigid and cruel when met with opposition. However, they are powerless against subtle resistance and refusal to be liked. As resentment among the oppressed rises, the populace is increasingly willing to run risks and extend its actions from passive resistance to active resistance, to repel the oppressor, and deal serious blow upon blow.The didactic value of the novel lies in the fact that it shows how anyone can take part in passive resistance and which roads are open and possible to both passive and active resistance. Portraying the oppressor as human makes it possible to understand and see the possible weaknesses of that oppressor. An enemy who is perceived as superhuman, can not be understood, only feared. The novel convincingly shows which possibilities people have in a situation like that; to readers in Nazi occupied Europe, the parallels between their situation and the novel would be evident. As the overall tone of the novel is optimistic, it would be enjoyable to read, and instructive at the same time.With hindsight, knowing or assuming the oppressor to be the Nazis, the novel is an interesting read that illustrates the situation of war-like occupation, as is known from many novels and history books, written after the war.
joririchardson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
John Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors, and this is one of the last of his works that I hadn't yet read. A concise, very short little novella (only 112 pages), it is easy to get through, yet still significantly deep and extremely through provoking.Published in 1942, this book was considered dangerously relevant, and in some countries pronounced illegal. For this reason, Steinbeck never exactly specifies where this book is set or what army he is referring to - but it is quite obvious that he is writing about the occupation of Norway by Nazi Germans.One of those books that could easily have been condensed into a short story, this little book never changes scenes. I found at times that the dialogue and description got a bit tiresome and dragged out - but overall, it was a very sensitively portrayed, deep and well written work of overlooked literature.
jnwelch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck was conceived as a propaganda piece during WWII to encourage resistance in occupied countries, but it surprisingly reads like two-sided fable that reminded me a bit of All Quiet on the Western Front. Although not called such, Nazis conquer and occupy an unprepared small Northern European coastal town and the colonel leading them tries to convince the populace, through their unwilling mayor, to accept their fate peaceably.Not gonna happen. A flare-up over forced work in a coal mine results in a Nazi death and reciprocal execution of a townsman, and the hostilities commence. The occupiers gradually realize they are trapped with a populace determined to undermine and oust them, and the phrase "the flies have conquered the flypaper" begins to circulate. Steinbeck gives us a feel for the young Nazi soldiers' perspective, as they yearn for the locals not to hate them, and to return home where life would be so much better. Some soldiers behave by the book, others try to befriend locals with disastrous results. As the Nazis become increasingly desperate to control the situation, it becomes clear they cannot. The mayor and his doctor friend exemplify that, but the town's will is widespread and adamant.It was fun to see how Steinbeck brought his poetic talent to this patriotic project. The book has generated worldwide popularity, and its themes still have the power to move us today.
Fungirl421 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's been a long time since I read this book and was surprised to find it here. This is the only Steinbeck book I actually enjoyed, although it is not his most acclaimed work. It should be. It is Steinbeck at his best. I took one star because his writing style does drive me a little mad.
msf59 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿The moon is down; I have not heard the clock.¿-MacbethIn a small unnamed country, (possibly Norway), an unnamed army (clearly German) invade and quickly conquer this bucolic nation. The invaders are interested in the coal, that this country produces. Both sides settle in for a long unsettling occupation.In this fable-like novella, told in a simple style, Steinbeck examines the affects of war on both sides: the gradual frustration and alienation of the enemy and the cold determination of the conquered, outwardly cooperating, but inwardly giving no quarter.At first glance, this seems like new territory for Steinbeck, but it becomes quickly apparent, that the major themes of his other lauded work, begin to shine through.I liked this short novel and also have to recommend the fantastic introduction, which maps the origins of this book, which was created as propaganda and widely circulated in Europe during World War II. A small gem.
-Cee- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not a long book. There are no poetic and descriptive passages in which to get lost; no lengthy philosophical arguments to ponder. This is a book where you take your life experience and knowledge of human behavior to tenderly fill in the blanks. Steinbeck takes us in directions that are not common, obvious, or expected. The protective layers are peeled back to reveal the vulnerability of the lonely heart and the sharp, courageous edges of the soul.It's a delight to read about Steinbeck's take on the irony of victor - vs - victim, the triumph of inner strength in adversity, and the illumination of truth as they are masterfully conveyed. In the words of a disillusioned German soldier on the brink of sanity: "...'The enemy have learned how crazy the Leader is... Flies conquer the fly paper. Flies capture two hundred miles of new flypaper!' His laughter was growing more hysterical now."Steinbeck writes in simple language and profound insight. The Moon is Down is one more impressive example of this talent. Short and brilliant. Recommended.
exlibrismcp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good read. Definitely not Steinbeck's best literary effort - the characters are some-what flat and the story-line is simple and straight-forward. However, when read with the context surrounding the writing of the book in mind, these flaws are easily over-looked. Written and published during the time of Nazi Germany, this novel was widely distributed throughout occupied areas as propaganda against that destructive force.Steinbeck chooses to show the occupying force in a sympathetic light. The soldiers are not cast as purely evil men; instead, they are human beings who are unfortunately caught in a situation where their only choice is to follow orders. Thus, the reader is allowed to place himself in a variety of roles so as to empathize with a range of emotions and to consider what choices he might make in the same situation.
flybait on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a book that caught me completely by surprise. It turns out that this short novel by Steinbeck was written as a propaganda novel during WWII and tens of thousands of copies circulated around Nazi occupied Europe. It is unique in that it gave a realistic depcition of the Nazis in that they were people, they had hopes, and most of the soldiers didn't want to be in the occupying country any more than those that were being occupied. Because of this level of humanity that he gave them, there were several major critics in the US that despised the book and some even went as far as to call him a sympathizer, which hurt and infuriated Steinbeck. His depiction of the occupied citizens as hurt, demoralized, but resilient is fascinating. This is probably the first piece of propaganda literature that I've read that has left me feeling both hopeful and determined. Equally approachable and thought provoking, this is an excellent read for anyone interested in modern day expansionism.
ben.wildeboer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story chronicles how a previously free, happy, laid-back people react to being conquered; as well as how conquerors expecting to be treated well react to the hatred and violence the run into from the people. An easy read and a thought-provoking book.
DanStratton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My wife has always read the classics. I have pretty much stuck to science fiction, fantasy and spy thrillers. She told me once that she had said she would marry someone versed in the classics. While I'm sure it wasn't a disappointment that I'm not, I figured it couldn't hurt. I picked up this book to read mainly because it is by Steinbeck, one of those authors everyone should read. I wasn't disappointed. This is a short tale; took me all of a couple hours to read. It is a commentary on the fruitlessness of war told through the story of a fictional town invaded by a non-specific army battalion of an unnamed country. The only reference to the real world is a couple mentions of England, but the names are not even a giveaway as to any particular side. It is through this method that Steinbeck makes the commentary that it doesn't matter who is the conqueror or the conquered, the results will be the same. The town is invaded because the Leader needs the coal mined there. The invader starts off nicely enough, but of course, one person rebels, so they feel they must make a show of force. That starts the inhabitants on the path to rebellion and the army to harsher and harder crackdowns. He shows how the conqueror will never win in these situations - they will be overthrown regardless of their tactics. Free men must be free again. Written in 1942, it is obvious to what world events Steinbeck was speaking, but they are no less true today. You can see the exact pattern today. This is definitely a recommended read.
xtien on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book in school, I don't remember a lot of it. Must read it again, I suppose a lot of memories will come back to me.
Trotsky731 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great, quick read. A propaganda piece based in an occupied town in an unnamed European country (Norway is assumed) during the second world war. It depicts the hateful relationship of the occupied townsfolk and their unrelenting resistance to their conquerors. It also depicts the occupiers (Germany is assumed) as real people with emotions and a knowing sense that they will never truly defeat the townsfolk. This adds a great dimension and helps to reign in the theme that free men will always triumph over their oppressors.
JBreedlove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A stirring novel about the Norwegian underground during WWII. The extremes to what good men will do when under pressure.
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