To a God Unknown

To a God Unknown

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Overview

A Penguin Classic

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.

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: 9780140187519
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/28/1995
Series: Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 146,353
Product dimensions: 5.08(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.41(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. 

Robert DeMott, editor, is the Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor at Ohio State University and author of Steinbeck's Typewriter, an award-winning book of critical essays.

Date of Birth:

February 27, 1902

Date of Death:

December 20, 1968

Place of Birth:

Salinas, California

Place of Death:

New York, New York

Education:

Attended Stanford University intermittently between 1919 and 1925

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To a God Unknown 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
DunkRyan More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Steinbeck at his best. It is very obvious that he is truly one of the great American writers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
rainpebble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! In his book "To A God Unknown" John Steinbeck has created an unforgettable character. Joseph Wayne is a man who comes to feel so close to the earth and all that is thereof, that one might think him to be a native American, but not so. He is the patriarch of a family of brothers who, upon the death of their father, follow him to a valley where, with their help, he builds a fairly self contained ranch. Each brother is married or does marry including Joseph and though he is but the 3rd eldest of the 4 brothers, they all look up to him for decisions. When Joseph first comes to the valley and overlooks it, he sees a huge oak tree and decides to build his house at that site with the tree overshadowing the house. He is fascinated by this tree. He talks to it, he pours wine over it, he places meat in it and over time the tree comes to overshadow everything within Joseph's life. When his son is born, the scene which played out in my mind was that of Kunta Kinte in "Roots" when he held his newborn son up to the sky to be blessed. Joseph does exactly the same thing with his newborn son, but holds him up to the oak tree instead of to the sky. It is as if he were thanking the tree and giving over the nurturing of his son to the tree. When the oak tree dies, things begin to go awry. Deaths, lack of water, feed shortages for the animals, a murder occurs, among many other things. Joseph turns his fixation to a pine grove on the ranch where there is a large moss covered stone with a small but constant spring of fresh water emerging from it. Joseph remains with the rock and while he attempts to keep the moss covering it moist and healthy, eventually the spring dries up as well and the moss dies also.This is not a happy book. But it is a fascinating and thought provoking book. It is a book full of symbolic challenges and a very dark book . I was unable to put it down. I highly recommend it for those not in need of a happy, joyful book. If that is what you are looking for you will not find it here. What you will find is something (if you are like me) the likes of which you have never read before, excepting perhaps in the Bible. This will most likely be one of my top ten of the year. It is, in my mind, a masterful piece of work.
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't believe the average rating I see for this book (currently 3.91). I thought it was pretty bad and only of interest because Steinbeck wrote it. Unfortunately, it's Steinbeck in larval form. I can't believe he spent 4 years on this book. Great title, not much else.
jlelliott on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To a God Unknown is a book full of powerful images. Reading about the mossy stone in its lonely pine grove still makes me shudder, and I am not a superstitious or particularly spiritual person. To the protagonist Joseph, the land is god and god is everything, and it exacts great and terrible payments for the fertility and life that Joseph craves. Like almost of all of Steinbeck¿s novels, it is beautifully written and full of vividly drawn people. However in other ways it is very unlike most of his novels. It isn¿t funny, not even a little, and it isn¿t quite about people. I can¿t quite describe what it is about (the interconnectedness of all life? human longing for kinship with nature? fate?), or adequately explain the feelings it evokes in me.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Steinbeck wrote a number of California novels. The early ones feature lyrical descriptive prose of the land, whether of the Salinas Valley or the Pacific Coast. Clearly Steinbeck loved the area, had a real passion for the valleys, the vegetation, the animals¿and the people who lived there. But while almost all of his other California novels that focused on the land and the people who lived on it were gently affectionate, To A God Unknown is a very different bird. The title is taken from an adaptation of a hymn to the god Prajapati from the Hindu Rig-Veda. And while the hymn is innocuous enough, it really is a foreshadowing of what is to come.Steinbeck used his initial chapters and prefaces to set the emotional mood of his works. In To A God Unknown, practically from the first chapter, the mood is one of a foreboding, as Joseph Wayne takes leave of his father who blesses him in a vaguely described but clearly unusual way, deliberately meant, I¿m sure, to evoke Hebrew Testament patriarchs. From there on, the mood just intensifies, as Wayne finds land that is his¿so much so that there is a passage that can easily be interpreted as his copulation with the earth.From old-timers, Indian/Hispanic residents of the valley, Joseph learns of years when there was a terrible drought¿when the land died and the cattle died and the people left. But Wayne is convinced that it will never happen again to his land. There is an old oak on the land, underneath which Wayne builds his house. One day, he feels a presence in the oak, and is convinced that somehow his father is there. He receives a letter from his brothers telling of the passing of the old man and how at the end there was nothing more the father wanted than to see John¿s new land. The brothers, two of whom are married, come out to join Joseph in California, buy adjacent land, and jointly farm. One brother, Burton, is a fundamentalist Christian, and in his religious fanaticism lie the seeds of the outcome of this story.The years pass¿Joseph takes a wife, Elizabeth¿the farms prosper¿but still there is no relief from the absolute certainty that disaster is ahead, that some appalling calamity awaits. Partially, Steinbeck achieves this in his dialogue, which seems perfectly natural to the characters but is ¿off¿¿somehow not right, strange. The tension becomes practically unbearable; the catastrophe strikes. And the resolution is both inevitable, satisfying, and unsettling at the same time.I did not find To A God Unknown an easy read¿on the contrary, I had to put it down for a while because I just could not bear what I knew was coming. This is one of Steinbeck¿s most powerful and disturbing works, and will throw off those who are used to his more affectionate books such as Tortilla Flat. Yet it is an outstanding example of how mood can be determined and sustained by great writing.
JBreedlove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Steinbeck's mystical tale of two brothers,their beliefs, a huge oak, and how their choices affect each others lives. Classic Steinbeck.
beata on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set somewhere in Monterey County, very spiritual, though pagan; intriguing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sometimes rambles on without an obvious purpose. Not Stienbecks style.
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