Chicago, Illinois, USA
Place of Death
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
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John Roderigo Dos Passos (January 14, 1896 – September 28, 1970) was an American novelist and artist.
Dos Passos was born in Chicago, Illinois, the illegitimate son of John Randolph Dos Passos Jr. (1844–1917). The elder Dos Passos was a lawyer of Madeiran Portuguese descent, the son of John Randolph Dos Passos and Mary Hays, and the brother of Louis Hays Dos Passos. He was an authority on trusts and a staunch supporter of the powerful industrial conglomerates his son would come to oppose in his fictional works of the 1920s and 30s. In 1910, the elder Dos Passos married Lucy Addison Sprigg Madison, from Petersburg. Although he provided for his son`s schooling, he refused to acknowledge him until two years after his marriage (when his son was 14).
The younger Dos Passos received a first-class education, enrolling at The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall) in Wallingford, Connecticut in 1907 under the name John Roderigo Madison, then traveling with a private tutor on a six-month tour of France, England, Italy, Greece, and the Middle East to study the masters of classical art, architecture, and literature.
In 1912 he attended Harvard University. Following his graduation in 1916 he traveled to Spain to study art and architecture. With World War I raging in Europe and America not yet participating, Dos Passos volunteered in July 1917 for the S.S.U. 60 of the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, along with friends E. E. Cummings and Robert Hillyer. He worked as a driver in Paris and in north-central Italy.
By the late summer of 1918, he had completed a draft of his first novel. At the same time, he had to report for duty with the U.S. Army Medical Corps at Camp Crane in Pennsylvania. At war`s end, he was stationed in Paris, where the U.S. Army Overseas Education Commission allowed him to study anthropology at the Sorbonne. A character in U.S.A. goes through virtually the same military career and stays in Paris after the war.
Considered one of the Lost Generation writers, Dos Passos` first novel was published in 1920. Titled One Man`s Initiation: 1917 it was followed by an antiwar story, Three Soldiers, which brought him considerable recognition. His 1925 novel about life in New York City, titled Manhattan Transfer, was a commercial success and introduced experimental stream-of-consciousness techniques into Dos Passos` method.
At this point a social revolutionary, Dos Passos came to see the United States as two nations, one rich and one poor. He wrote admiringly about the Wobblies and the injustice in the criminal convictions of Sacco and Vanzetti and joined with other notable personalities in the United States and Europe in a failed campaign to overturn their death sentences. In 1928, Dos Passos spent several months in Russia studying their socialist system.
In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, he returned to Spain with Hemingway, but his views on the communist movement had already begun to change. Dos Passos broke with Hemingway and Herbert Matthews over their cavalier attitude towards the war and their willingness to lend their names to Stalinist propaganda efforts, including the cover-up of the Soviet responsibility in the murder of José Robles, Dos Passos`s friend and translator of his works into Spanish. (In later years, Hemingway would give Dos Passos the derogatory moniker of "the pilot fish" in his memoirs of 1920s Paris, A Moveable Feast.) These ideas coalesced into the USA trilogy (see below), of which the first book appeared in 1930.
Dos Passos attended the 1932 Democratic National Convention and subsequently wrote an article for The New Republic in which he harshly criticized the selection of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the party`s nominee. In the mid-1930s he wrote a series of scathing articles about communist political theory, and created an idealistic Communist in The Big Money who is gradually worn down and destroyed by groupthink in the party. As a result of socialism gaining popularity in Europe as a response to Fascism, there was a sharp decline in international sales of his books. His politics, which had always underpinned his work, moved far to the right. (He came to admire Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s.) Recognition for his significant contribution in the literary field would come thirty years later in Europe when, in 1967, he was invited to Rome to accept the prestigious Antonio Feltrinelli Prize for international distinction in literature. Although Dos Passos` partisans have contended that his later work was ignored because of his changing politics, there is a consensus among critics that the quality of his novels drastically declined following U.S.A.
Between 1942 and 1945, Dos Passos worked as a journalist covering World War II. In 1947, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, but tragedy struck when an automobile accident killed his wife of 18 years, Katharine Smith, and cost him the sight in one eye. The couple had no children. He eventually was remarried to Elizabeth Hamlyn Holdridge (1909–1998) in 1949, by whom he had an only daughter, Lucy Hamlin Dos Passos (b. 1950), and he continued to write until his death in Baltimore, Maryland in 1970. He is interred in Yeocomico Churchyard Cemetery in Cople Parish, Westmoreland County, Virginia, not far from where he had made his home.
Over his long and successful career, Dos Passos wrote forty-two novels, as well as poems, essays, and plays, and created more than 400 pieces of art.
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John Roderigo Dos Passos
John Roderigo Dos Passos (; January 14, 1896 – September 28, 1970) was a radical American novelist and artist active in the first half of the twentieth century. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, and he went on to Harvard College, graduating 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 a member of the American Volunteer Motor Ambulance Corps in Paris and Italy, later joining the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
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novelist, playwright, poet, journalist, painter, translator
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