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Cover of American NightAmerican Night: The Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War
by Alan Wald ’69

Alan Wald ’69 had his latest book, American Night, published two weeks ago by the University of North Carolina Press. The book is the conclusion of a trilogy.

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.

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.

American Night: The Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War
By Alan M. Wald
432 pp., 36 halftones
ISBN 978-0-8078-3586-9 $45.00 cloth
Publication date: September 15, 2012

Read an excerpt of American Night on Google Books.