Even though Steinbeck wrote East of Eden ostensibly for his sons, Thom and John IV, they supported their mother, Gwyn, when in 1964 she sued her famous ex-husband for additional child support.
[Source: John Steinbeck: A Biography (1994) by Jay Parini]
The Title: East of Eden
Steinbeck's inspiration for the novel comes from the Bible, the fourth chapter of the book of Genesis, verses one through sixteen, which recounts the story of Cain and Abel. The title, East of Eden, was chosen by Steinbeck from Genesis, Chapter 4, verse 16.
Steinbeck on Steinbeck: Writing Trivia
Steinbeck kept track of things while writing East of Eden, and by his account, the novel took:
- 11 years of mental gestation
- One year of uninterrupted writing
- 25 dozen pencils
- Approximately three dozen reams of paper
- 350,000 words (before cutting)
- About 75,000 words in his work-in-progress journal
- And a rock-hard callus on the middle finger of the his right hand.
Timshel: 'Thou Mayest'
Here is the choice that the characters of East of Eden must face. It should be noted, however, that the Hebrew word is in fact neither "timshel" nor "tinshel" (as Steinbeck himself sometimes referred to it) but "timshol." Yet Steinbeck, who was himself accused of mistranslation, was correct in his interpretation.
East of Eden Translations
The novel East of Eden has been translated into many languages of the world, among them: Burmese, Chinese, Danish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Japanese, Norwegian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, and Spanish. Russian scholars are working on the Russian translation.
The Salad Bowl of the Nation
The Salinas Valley is now known as "The Salad Bowl of the Nation." One thousand trucks filled with produce leave it everyday.
Steinbeck returned to Salinas in February of 1948 to begin intensive research for what he considered would be his greatest book, East of Eden. During his stay in Monterey, CA he drove to Salinas and used the files of the local newspaper, the Salinas Index-Journal.The novel was completed in November of 1951.
Today, nearly four decades after his death, all of Steinbeck's novels are in print and they sell a combined total of more than 700,000 copies a year. (www.barnesandnoble.com)
The National Steinbeck Center has 100,000 visitors per year and cost $11 million to build. (www.americanwriters.org)