Russian Delegates at Geneva Appear to Be Not of This World

Ernest Hemingway

Toronto Daily Star/April 27, 1922

Genoa.—The Russian envoys at Genoa look, talk and act like businessmen and yet there is a strange, unworldly something about them.

Tchitcherin, the head of the delegation, has a weak, indefinite sort of face that gains no character from his thin beard, and while he talks in his hissing, purring voice he is not at all impressive. Yet when you read his speech later and analyze it, you see how the points are jabbed home with rapier-like clarity. Tchitcherin’s mind, when he talks, seems to come down from some Marxian heaven that looks down through the mezzanine of H. G. Wells’ heaven to the earth far beneath. The earth looks very small, but very clear to Tchitcherin.

Joffe, with his narrow sod-spade beard, Krassin of the immaculate Van Dyke, Litvinoff with his big, blond, smooth Russian face all have this air of detachment—but all have it in a less degree than Tchitcherin. It is the sort of look that you saw on the faces of men who had been in the war so long that it had ceased to exist, a sort of exaltation of personality above their daily world.

The exception to this impressiveness of the Russians is Rosenberg, a small, nervous, hysterical and suspicious man who is in charge of the Russian press service. Now I am not anti-French, anti-Semitic, or anti-any nationality as far as I know. Neither am I pro-Bolshevik, pro-Irish, pro­Italian or have any special pros. I am trying to write an impartially observed account of the conference, untinged by propaganda of any sort. And I say if the Russians lose or have lost the sympathy of public opinion that they gained when they offered disarmament of Russia on the first day, it will be because of the utter lack of judgment and the complete lack of any grasp of the situation of their relation with the press.

Newspapermen in crowds make the long, all-day trip out to Rapallo and Santa Marguerita. They either go in motorcars and are choked with dust or sit in a dirty train that goes through some thirty tunnels as it follows the ocean shore. When they get to the Russian headquarters at the Imperial Hotel at Santa Marguerita the chances are more than even that the Russians refuse to see them.

The other day I waited an hour, being eyed with intense suspicion by the guards and submitted to a cross-examination, until Rosenberg finally sent down word he would not receive us. It was all right with me. I will continue to report impartially, but some of the other correspondents said, “All right, we’ll roast them tonight for that. They’ll find out if that is the way to treat the press.” And the trouble is that the opinion of the world is made by those same correspondents.

Correspondents of the Communist papers like the Daily Herald of London and Humanite of Paris have begged Rosenberg to adopt a different attitude, but he is a small, weak, frightened man, with a job too big for him, and as a result the Russians suffer. It is a very big bet that the Soviet government is overlooking, and the reason for its being over­looked is this unworldly detachment of the heads of the Soviet delegation.

(Source: William White, ed. Ernest Hemingway: Dateline: Toronto.Simon and Schuster, 2002.)

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