The following text is an excerpt from Albert Parry’s hitherto unpublished memoirs, Ask That Your Way Be Long: An Autobiography. As becomes evident from reading his obituary in the New York Times (May 8, 1992), Professor Parry led a very colorful and highly interesting life. Having escaped from his hometown of Rostov-on-Don in the midst of the Russian Civil War, and then emigrating to the United States in 1921, he proceeded to develop a successful career for himself as a writer and journalist in New York City during the 1920s and early 1930s, before moving to the Midwest to pursue his lifelong interest in history, obtaining first a Bachelor’s Degree (1935) and then a Ph.D. (1938) at the University of Chicago. Although World War II temporarily interrupted his burgeoning academic career (he worked during wartime for the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, D.C.), Professor Parry taught for twenty-two years at Colgate University, where he organized the first Russian Studies curriculum in the country. During his lifetime, he became intimately acquainted with a whole host of interesting contemporary artists, writers, filmmakers, and political activists, including, among many others, D. W. Griffith, Roger Baldwin, H. L. Mencken, John Dos Passos, Boris Pilnyak, Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, Joseph Freeman, Louis Fischer, David Burliuk, Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow, Thornton Wilder, Richard Wright, Nelson Algren, John Cheevers, Paul Robeson, Drew Pearson, Adlai Stevenson, Wendell Willkie, Louis Fischer, and Mike Wallace.
The excerpt from Professor Parry’s autobiography that is provided here describes his brief stint as a part-time interpreter for Boris Pilnyak, the famous Soviet writer, who was visiting the U.S for the first time during the spring and summer of 1931. Parry’s account of his interactions with Pilnyak during the latter’s stay in New York is especially noteworthy, since there has been, to my knowledge, no mention made anywhere else of the meeting between this famous visitor from Soviet Russia and the equally famous American novelist, John Dos Passos, that took place in a Greenwich Village restaurant during Pilnyak’s stay in New York. The conversation between these two modernist authors, both of whom were becoming increasingly disenchanted with the efficacy of Communism as a way to remedy social injustice in the modern world, is to be found only in the memoirs of Albert Parry, who was present at that meal. I wish to express my deep gratitude to Tom and Jim Parry for granting me permission to edit and to publish here this excerpt from their late father’s memoirs.
Ronald D. LeBlanc
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
University of New Hampshire
Durham, NH 03824
Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Parry, Albert, "Interpreting for Boris Pilnyak in New York City during 1931" (2024). Faculty Publications. 1633.