During the Cold War, Steinbeck repeatedly turned to Cervantes in the process of redefining himself as a writer to address a new set of social and cultural issues. His appropriation of Don Quixote began with The Wayward Bus (1947) and continued in A Russian Journal (1948), but it was with the experimental, anti-modernist East of Eden (1952) that his understanding of Cervantes’s engagement with the reader deepened. During the next decade, Steinbeck shuttled constantly back and forth between satire and romance, Europe and America, past and present; in this dialectic, Don Quixote became a privileged intermediary, a bridge between the two poles. This trajectory culminates in his final novel, The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), and the travelogue Travels with Charley (1962), where he explicitly acknowledges his long-term debt to Cervantes by naming his trailer “Rocinante,” after Don Quixote’s horse.

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