27 JANUARY 1939, Page 26


NEAR the five-hundredth page of this book comes a section called " Random Portraits and Snapshots," and this title might have been used a little earlier, for the first impression made by Mr. Adamic's book is one of disorganisation. What can this long narrative of literary efforts and squabbles, these reflections on past episodes in American labour history, these discussions of the role of the immigrant, or of the reasons why so many bright young people in America are Communists, or at least " fellow-travellers," hold to interest even an American reader? And if it cannot interest him, what mean- ing can it have for the British reader who has never heard of Heywood Broun, much less of Ben Stolberg, and who will have to take the news that Mr. John Strachey said Phil La Follette was a Fascist with whatever degree of serious atten- tion is imposed by his opinion of Mr. Strachey, without any correction from a knowledge of Phil La Follette?

Yet Mr. Adamic brings it off; in this jungle of names and allusions, a trail appears that it is both profitable and entertain- ing to follow, the trail that led Mr. Adamic to the discovery that American life is different in kind from European life, and that the native and imported diagnosticians, Mr. Granville Hicks and Mr. " Robert Forsythe," Mr. H. G. Wells and Mr. John Strachey, who insist that America must choose, here and now, between two closely defined and incompatible ways of life, are ignoring that pluralistic character of American experience on which Mr. John Chamberlain has lately been insisting. America is bloody and brutal enough; the cops who may be decent as individuals go Berserk when let loose on a crowd to defend the sanctities held dear by Messrs. Kelly, Hague and other pious Hibernian allies ' of capitalism. Mr. Adamic does not like Tom Girdler of "Little Steel" or the California defenders of hardly concealed peonage, but having lived under a real dictatorship in Jugoslavia, and having been a real peasant, he does not confuse either Mr. Roosevelt or Mr. La Follette with King Alexander or the American farmer with Russian peasants two generations removed from serfdom.

He thinks ' it -important that the lift-boy in Madison can call the Governor " Phil," noting that if the acceptance of such familiarity by the politicians is unconsciously calcu- lating, it is spontaneous with the lift-boys. And he contrasts this attitude with the humble patience of the petitioners who waited day after day in the government offices in Belgrade for a word from their Excellencies. The same point was made by Henri Dubreuil about the Ford plant, no home of democracy in important matters it is true, but far more egalitarian in tone than the Citroen plant in Paris. And, since Mr. Adamic tells us a good deal about American newspapers, it might be noted that it is easier to see the editor of a great American paper than the second assistant cattle-market reporter here. The Marxian zealots of the " C. P." will laugh or sneer at the naviety of Mr. Adarnic; they may even attack his motives, although that is a game at which, one suspects, two can play, Mr. Adamic being one of them. But when Mr. Adamic suggests that the latest recipe for revolution from Moscow, apart from being quite inconsistent with the latest but one, is highly irrelevant to the American situation, he is saying something that needs attention even from a party that has suddenly decided to be no per cent. American.

Mr. Adamic's main theme is that America is America, not Europe; as is fondly believed by many Americans who, unlike Mr. Adamic, had not the advantage of growing up in Carniola. But this main theme is illustrated in a dozen varied and interesting ways. There are discussions of labour troubles and accounts of new educational experiments, unkind accounts of meetings with the " booksy boys " (to borrow a phrase from Timothy Shy); too brief a statement of what it is like to write a " Book of the Month "; reasons why Herzogovinians won't go on relief in Minnesota; the story of how Vittorio Mussolini, the aesthetic airman, got a Bronx cheer in Hollywood. Mr. Adamic takes six hundred and fifty pages to make his point, perhaps he could have done it in less, but few of the pages are dull or irrelevant. In America, this book will inevitably be compared with Mr. Freeman's An American Testament. It is a less well-planned and less well-written book, but it has this advantage over Mr. Freeman's, that it is more about America and less about its author, and, although Mr. Adamic has had quite as interesting a time in America as has Mr. Freeman, America itself is a more interesting subject than either. Here is something good about modern America, in- cluding some cogent reasons why America should let Europe