Sunday, July 6, 2014

John Reed and "Ten Days That Shook the World"

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism, Peoples Campus and RR Campus, TU.

"Ten Days That Shook the World" written by American journalist, John Reed, was one of the several books that I had read both in English and Russian. It was in Minsk, then the capital of Soviet Belarus (it still is the capital of Republic of Belarus) where I happened to read Reed's historically acclaimed book in Russian in 1980s. And it was Prof Dr Ivan I. Sachenko who inspired me to peruse an American journalist's accounts of October Revolution in Russia in 1917.

The book offers a wide spectrum in terms of journalistic styles, themes, places and coverage of the October Socialist Revolution - led by Russian Social Democratic Workers Party (Bolsheviks) headed by Vladimir Lenin - that toppled the provisional government of Kerensky paving the way for the formation of  the powerful USSR, which, in turn, changed the political map of the world for more than  70 years.

Reed was a freelance journalist. During his journalistic innings, he was briefly associated with publications like "The Forum" and "The Century Magazine", but in 1913 Reed joined the staff of  "The Mass" brought out by Max Eastman. Reed was on a reporting assignment for "The Mass", an American magazine of the socialist politics, when he was reporting the October Socialist Revolution in Russia. As an international correspondent, Reed brought an entirely new approach to the coverage of revolutions and wars.

Writing about his own book, Reed said: "This book is a slice of intensified history - history as I saw it. It does not pretend to be anything but a detailed account of the November Revolution, when the Bolsheviks at the head of the workers and soldiers, seized the state power of Russia and placed it in the hands of the Soviets."

On March 1, 1999, The New York Times reported New York University's "Top 100 works of Journalism list" and Reed's book "Ten Days That Shook the World" was on the seventh ranking of the list.

The short life that Reed lived had encountered many vicissitudes. Reed was arrested and confined to prison in the US for political reasons. He had boarded ships for long voyage to Europe several times. A journalist is a part of an enterprise that is challenged by multiplicity of problems and issues, and Reed confronted many of those in his journalistic life. Reed had to deal with the vicissitudes of life, with the trials and tribulations of being a journalist.

As a true journalist, Reed had supporters as well as detractors, but through his articles and news stories dispatched from abroad like Russia, France and Mexico in the beginning of the twentieth century,  Reed had proved his mettle in his new avatar of war correspondent.

It is just a pleasant coincidence that I have been living for last ten years in Portland, Oregon where Reed was born on Oct 22, 1887 in a rich American family, and for several times I had been to Moscow where Reed was buried on Oct 17, 1920 with state honor on the Kremlin Wall necropolis.

In 2001, a memorial bench and plaque north of Lewis and Clark Memorial were created on the Rose Garden premises  in Portland to honor the Portland born journalist. The plaque has a quotation by Reed on his native city:"Portlanders understand and appreciate how differently beautiful is this part of the world - the white city against the deep evergreen of the hills, the snow mountains to the east, the ever changing river and its boat life - and the grays, blues and greens, the smoke dimmed sunsets and pearly hazes of August, so characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. You don't have to point out these things to your people. Walters, I think, paints them  with more affection and understanding than they have yet been painted."

Late Reed's journalistic activities had a significant impact on the world cinema too. Sergei Eisenstein, a Soviet movie director, created a silent film  still in 1927: "October: Ten Days That Shook the World" which was based on his book. Likewise, Warren Beatty produced a movie "Reds" based on the life of Reed. The movie bagged three Academy Awards and was nominated for nine others. 

No comments:

Post a Comment