The Muses Are Heard

The Muses Are Heard

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The Muses Are Heard

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The Muses Are Heard is an early journalistic work of Truman Capote. Originally published in The New Yorker, it is a narrative account of the cultural mission by The Everyman's Opera to the U.S.S.R. in the mid-1950s.

Capote was sent to accompany the Opera as it staged a production of Porgy and Bess. First published in two parts, it was later released as a short non-fiction book. The book's title comes from a speech given by one of the Soviet cultural ministry staff, who declared, “When the cannons are heard, the muses are silent. When the cannons are silent, the muses are heard.”


The book opens with the cast, directors, support personnel and Mrs. Ira Gershwin waiting in West Berlin for their visa to be returned by the Russian Embassy. They are briefed by U.S. Embassy Staff, and among other questions, ask if they will be under surveillance, presumably by the K.G.B., during their visit. They also consider political issues and how to answer sensitive questions, especially those about the “Negro situation” - also whether it is safe to drink the water: the company includes several children. Capote, who is present in the narrative, returns to his hotel room to find a brown paper parcel of anti-Communist pamphlets.

After a train ride of several days (the first two without a dining car), the cast and crew arrive in Leningrad a few days before Christmas and are dispatched to a hotel, the Astoria, which boasts, as Capote writes, “a trio of restaurants, each leading...
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