John Dos Passos

American novelist, playwright, poet, journalist, painter

1896   -   1970

movement: Modernist literature
genre: Lost Generation
country of citizenship: United States of America
educated at: Harvard University, Choate Rosemary Hall
occupation: war correspondent, screenwriter, novelist, journalist, writer, painter
award received: John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Feltrinelli Prize
www.johndospassos.com

John Roderigo Dos Passos (; January 14, 1896 – September 28, 1970) was an American novelist, most notable for his U.S.A. trilogy, written in experimental ‘non-linear’ form, blending elements of biography and news reports to paint a landscape of early 20th-century American culture. Published through the 1930’s, it reflected the death of idealism and a pessimistic view of national politics. Born in Chicago, Dos Passos graduated from Harvard College in 1916. He was well-traveled, visiting Europe and the Middle East, where he learned about literature, art, and architecture. During World War I, he was an ambulance driver for American volunteer groups in Paris and Italy before joining the United States Army Medical Corps. In 1920, his first novel, One Man's Initiation: 1917, was published, and in 1925, his novel Manhattan Transfer became a commercial success. In 1928, he went to the Soviet Union to study socialism, and later became a leading participant in the 1935 First American Writers Congress sponsored by the communist-leaning League of American Writers. He was in Spain in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. The murder of his friend José Robles soured his attitude toward Communism, and led to severing his relationship with fellow writer Ernest Hemingway. His U.S.A. trilogy, which consists of the novels The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919 (1932), and The Big Money (1936), was ranked by the Modern Library in 1998 as 23rd of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. By the 1950s, his political views had changed dramatically, and he had become more conservative. In the 1960s, he campaigned for presidential candidates Barry Goldwater and Richard M. Nixon. As an artist, Dos Passos created his own cover art for his books, influenced by modernism in 1920s Paris. He died in Baltimore, Maryland. Spence's Point, his Virginia estate, was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1971.
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