American NightThe Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War

American NightThe Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War

Alan M. Wald

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780807835869

Publisher: University of North Carolina Press

Abstract

This book, the final volume of a trilogy, brings the author's multigenerational history of Communist writers to a climax. Using new research to explore the intimate lives of novelists, poets, and critics during the Cold War, it 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, the author 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, the author 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 the author labels “late antifascism” serve to frame a collective biography.