A JOURNEY ACROSS THE SOVIET UNION BY ‘THE ONE WHO THINKS DIFFERENTLY’,
THE JOURNALIST AND POLITICAL THEORIST FREDA UTLEY
[UTLEY, Winifred (‘Freda’)]. From Moscow to Samarkand by Y.Z. Second Impression. London: Garden City Press Ltd. for Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, 1934.
Octavo (216 x 137mm), pp. 134, [2 (blank l.)]. Wood-engraved press-device after Vanessa Bell on title, half-tone frontispiece, 5 half-tone plates, one full-page map in the text. (First and last ll. very lightly spotted, lower corners of quires F-G creased.) Original red cloth, spine lettered in white. (Offsetting on endpapers, a few light marks, spine slightly faded, extremities lightly rubbed and bumped and dampmarked.) A very good copy. Provenance: Stephen John Keynes OBE, FLS (1927-2017).
First edition, second impression. The author and writer on politics Winifred (‘Freda’) Utley (1899-1978) was privately educated in Switzerland and England, and would have studied at Cambridge if it had not been for her family’s sudden impoverishment. Instead, she read journalism – her father’s profession – and history at King’s College, London and the London School of Economics. ‘Her parents were radicals in their outlook and they educated their daughter in a rationalist and humanist mode. As an atheist she saw religion only as the shield of tyranny, intolerance, and cruelty. She became imbued with a passion for justice which proved as strong as any religious fervour. Aspiring to liberate mankind from immemorial oppression, she sought to usher in, through political activity, a new era of human freedom’ (ODNB), successively joining, and holding increasingly important positions in, the Independent Labour Party, the King’s College Socialist Society, the London University Labour Party, the University Labour Federation, and, finally, the Communist Party, standing as the party’s London County Council candidate in 1928. Utley’s travels took her to Russia, the ‘Land of Promise’, in 1927 – she translated Vladimir Astrov’s Illustrated History of the Russian Revolution (New York, 1928) from the German around the same time – and then via Siberia to China and Japan, where she researched economic history, especially the Japanese and Indian labour costs, and competition with the cotton industry of Lancashire. Her work in this area, which critically investigated British policy and modern imperialism in India, was not uncontroversial, but was translated into Russian and Japanese, and established her as an expert on the cotton industry.
In 1930, two years after her marriage to the Russian Arkady Berdichevsky, Utley moved to the USSR, had a son in 1934, and worked (among other things) as a textile specialist at the commissariat of light industry and as senior scientific worker at the Academy of Sciences, until 1936, when her husband was sentenced to five years in prison, probably due to the couple’s critical attitude towards the Soviet regime. Utley – who would never see her husband again – emigrated to the USA in 1939 and stayed there for the remainder of her life, writing on all aspects of her professional interests (albeit with some difficulty, due to her strong anti-communist views and perspectives on the Second World War) and eventually publishing her autobiography. ‘Six of her eight books were translated into seven languages but their author never secured the recognition she sought. Disputatious by disposition, she always remained, in Rosa Luxemburg’s phrase, “the one who thinks differently” and an opponent in succession of the established regimes in England, Japan, Russia, and the USA’ (ODNB).
Utley’s From Moscow to Samarkand, was published under the pseudonym ‘Y.Z.’, and was described by the publisher as ‘a record of a [three-month] journey in Soviet Russia, from Moscow through Ferghana, Kirghizia, Sarmakand and Bokhara. The author is a Russian, and, for reasons which will be obvious to the reader, it is necessary that he [sic] should remain anonymous’ (Publisher’s Note, p. 5; presumably Utley’s residence in Russia at the time, and the anti-communist convictions she and her husband shared, would have prompted the obscuring of her gender and nationality).
From Moscow to Samarkand was first published in February 1934 at 6s, with 1,200 copies printed, and this second impression was issued in the following month. The Hogarth Press had previously published the renowned Bloomsbury economist John Maynard Keynes’ A Short View of Russia (1925), and it was probably due to Leonard Woolf’s interest in Russian politics, and the Woolfs’ ongoing endeavour to publish Russian literature in translation (their publication of Maxim Gorky’s Reminiscences of Tolstoy, Chekhov and Andreev by Katherine Mansfield was also issued in 1934) that they published Utley’s From Moscow to Samarkand. This copy is from the library of the bibliophile Stephen Keynes, the son of the distinguished surgeon, bibliographer, and bibliophile Sir Geoffrey Keynes (1887-1982) and the nephew and godson of John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes (1883-1946).
Cf. Woolmer, The Hogarth Press, 356 (1st ed.).
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