1750 North Serrano Avenue,
March 23, 1934.
Dear Miss Wick,
Thank you kindly for your letter. I greatly appreciate your interest and efforts on behalf of my novel.
You mention that you have written to me previously. I am very sorry to say that I have not received your letter and this was one of the reasons of my long silence, for I did not feel that I should annoy you with questions about my book. I hope you will excuse my silence.
I have just finished the second part of “AIRTIGHT”. There are still revisions and a little polishing to be done, but I will be able to send the script to you within a few weeks.
During our conversation here, I mentioned some of my views in regard to the selling points of my book and you said that you would like me to write them down for you. So, if I may, I would like to mention them here, in the hope that they may appeal to you, if you have not thought of the book from that particular angle.
When I first began work on “AIRTIGHT”, the quality which I hoped would make it saleable, quite aside from any possible literary merit, was the fact that it is the first story written by a Russian who knows the living conditions of the new Russia and who has actually lived under the Soviets in the period described. My plot and characters are fiction, but the living conditions, the atmosphere, the circumstances which make the incidents of the plot possible, are all true, to the smallest detail. There have been any number of novels dealing with modern Russia, but they have been written either by [émigrés] who left Russia right after the revolution and had no way of knowing the new conditions, or by Soviet authors who were under the strictest censorship and had no right and no way of telling the whole truth. My book is, as far as I know, the first one by a person who knows the facts and also can tell them.
I have watched very carefully all the literature on new Russia, that has appeared in English. I do not believe that there has been a work of fiction on this subject, which has enjoyed an outstanding and wide popular success. I believe this is due to the fact that all those novels were translations from the Russian, written primarily for the Russian reader. As a consequence, they were hard to understand and
of no great interest to the general American public, to those not too well acquainted with Russian conditions.
“AIRTIGHT”, I believe, is the first novel on Russia written in English by a Russian. Throughout the entire book, I have tried to write it from the viewpoint of and for the American public. I have never relied on any previous knowledge of Russia in my future readers, and I have attempted to show a panorama of the whole country as it would unfold before the eyes of a person who had never heard before that such a country as Russia existed. It is not, primarily, a book for Russians, but a book for Americans—or so I hope.
I have also attempted to show, not the political struggles, theories and ideals of modern Russia, of which we have heard so much, but the every day human lives, the every day tragedies of human beings who are not or try not to be connected with politics. It is not a story of glamorous Grand Dukes and brutal Bolsheviks—or vice-versa—as most of the novels of the Russian revolution have been; it is the story of the middle class, the vast majority of Russian citizens, about whom little has been said in fiction. It is not the usual story of revolutionary plots, of G.P.U. spies, of secret executions and exaggerated horrors. It is the story of the drudgery of life which millions have to lead day after day, year after year. Our American readers have been crammed full, too full, of Russian aims, projects and slogans on red banners. No one—to the best of my knowledge—has spoken of what goes on every day in every home and kitchen behind the red banners.
In connection with the present interest in Russia, I hoped that the book would be of value to the American reader, for no essay, no travelogue can give one so vivid a picture, so complete a feeling of a foreign country as a fiction story can.
The above may all sound quite presumptuous and immodest, coming from the author herself, but I did not intend it as self-praise and self-publicity. I do not presume to assert that my book has accomplished all the desirable qualities mentioned above. I have merely stated what I have tried to accomplish. But if I have succeeded, then I do think the considerations I have outlined should arouse an interest in the book on the part of publishers and readers. Or am I mistaken?
I would like to mention that the qualities I have described are not the aim, theme or purpose of the book, but I have gone into them in such detail only because I believe they are valuable sales points. I may be quite mistaken and these suggestions may have no value. But since you were kind enough to express the desire to hear them and since these “sales points” have been in my mind all through the writing
of the book, I felt that I should share them with you and let you judge of their worth.
I have not written about this sooner, for I wanted to finish the book first and to see whether my intentions had been carried out in the final shape of the story. I believe they have. However, I shall leave the decision on that to your own judgment.
With sincere best wishes,
Very truly yours,