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432 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

Paper
ISBN  978-1-4696-1881-4
Published: August 2014

American Night

The Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War

By Alan M. Wald


Awards & Distinctions

A 2013 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

American Night, the final volume of an unprecedented trilogy, brings Alan Wald's multigenerational history of Communist writers to a poignant climax. Using new research to explore the intimate lives of novelists, poets, and critics during the Cold War, Wald reveals a radical community longing for the rebirth of the social vision of the 1930s and struggling with a loss of moral certainty as the Communist worldview was being called into question. The resulting literature, Wald shows, is a haunting record of fracture and struggle linked by common structures of feeling, ones more suggestive of the "negative dialectics" of Theodor Adorno than the traditional social realism of the Left.

Establishing new points of contact among Kenneth Fearing, Ann Petry, Alexander Saxton, Richard Wright, Jo Sinclair, Thomas McGrath, and Carlos Bulosan, Wald argues that these writers were in dialogue with psychoanalysis, existentialism, and postwar modernism, often generating moods of piercing emotional acuity and cosmic dissent. He also recounts the contributions of lesser known cultural workers, with a unique accent on gays and lesbians, secular Jews, and people of color. The vexing ambiguities of an era Wald labels "late antifascism" serve to frame an impressive collective biography.

About the Author

Alan M. Wald is the H. Chandler Davis Collegiate Professor of English Literature and American Culture at the University of Michigan and is the recipient of the Mary C. Turpie Prize of the American Studies Association. The rest of his trilogy includes Exiles from a Future Time: The Forging of the Mid-Twentieth-Century Literary Left and Trinity of Passion: The Literary Left and the Antifascist Crusade. He has been awarded the Mary C. Turpie Prize by the American Studies Association.


Reviews

"A solid contribution to American studies, this will be welcomed by literary scholars, historians, and political scientists for its thorough research and wide ranging scholarship."
--Library Journal

“The book’s biggest contribution is Wald’s material on homosexuality in the CP and its milieu, in which he examines the related prejudices of the party line and the society it supposedly stood in opposition to.”
--Criticism

"Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate; graduate students."
--Choice

"A majestic trilogy. . . . Wald's invaluable writings underscore the relationship between how to study the world and how to change it. American Night can be a valuable tool to help people do both."
--International Socialist Review

“Never has the creative, beating literary heart of the Popular Front been put under such microscopic attention. . . . No literary scholar but Wald could have raised the assorted political and person questions in this book as keenly, or gone as far to explore the grappling for answers that constitutes a great legacy of that always scarred, often heroic generation.”
--Rain Taxi Review of Books

“Extraordinary diligence and meticulousness has allowed Wald to unearth a startlingly large post-war group of struggling literary leftists. He has gone to every conceivable archive, read every relevant work, and interviewed anyone who could possibly have told him anything of substance about the novelists, poets and playwrights included in American Night.”
--Jewish Currents

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