Steinbeck and Robert Capa spent a month in the Soviet Union. It took some time for Steinbeck to cotton on to the fact that his travelling companion was a closet biblioklept. I love the blithe insistence of innocence in Capa, even when caught book-handed, with that sweetly inoffensive ‘I am just … I just want’.
Be furious if it were my books, of course.
Wonder what happened to his pocketed volumes.
‘Capa had provided books for the trip, and at that time I did not know how he got them. But it came out later that Capa is a thief of books. He calls it borrowing. Casually he puts books in his pocket, and if he is caught at it, he says, “I will return it, I am just borrowing it, I just want to read it.” The book rarely gets returned … Right to the end of his Russian stay he stole books. He also steals women and cigarettes, but this can be more easily forgiven.’
Source: John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal, with photographs by Robert Capa (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999 (1948)), p. 50
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