1940s

As I was looking over the lists of novels I’ve read over the years, I came across these four novels, all written in the 1940s, which I considered excellent when I read them, but have heard little or nothing about the novels or their authors in recent years.

‘Never Come Morning’ by Nelson Algren (1942) – Algren captured the raw underside of Chicago life in this novel about a dirt-poor boxer.  Having read nearly all his works, I am a huge admirer of Nelson Algren’s style; he writes about the hard gritty side of life, but with obvious intelligence and insight. His novels ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ and ‘A Walk on the Wild Side’ are probably better known than this early novel, but this one is excellent.  Perhaps Nelson Algren is best remembered for this quote.

    Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.” From A Walk on the Wild Side

 

‘The Mountain Lion’ by Jean Stafford (1947) -  A brother and sister coming-of-age novel, this story is a tragedy, yet charming and funny by turns.  Stafford is best known as a short story writer and for her unfortunate short marriage to the brilliant but mentally unstable poet Robert Lowell.  I’ve read nearly all of her work including her short stories and her other major novel “The Catherine Wheel”, and they are all excellent.  Jean Stafford is a writer too good to disappear into obscurity.  Here is a quote from Jean Stafford.

    Irony, I feel, is a very high form of morality.

‘A Burnt Child’ by Stig Dagerman (1947) -  Stig Dagerman was one of the most prominent Swedish writers in the 1940s.  If you like extreme psychological novels, this is the novel for you.  Wikiquote has a whole long page devoted to quotes from ‘A Burnt Child’.  I’ve also read ‘The Games of Night’, a book of short stories, which is also excellent.  Stig Dagerman committed suicide in 1954 at the age of 31.  If you want to learn more about Stig Dagerman, go to the Stig Dagerman Blog.   Here is one quote from this novel.

    I am sufficiently intelligent to be able to differentiate between real falsehood, which is aimed at hurting people, and a wise moderation of so-called truth, whose only object is to simplify life for all concerned.

‘The Bridge On the Drina’ by Ivo Andric (1945)– This novel is probably least likely of the four here to be forgotten because Ivo Andric received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1961, although that may not be a guarantee.   It is the story of some of the people who crossed the bridge during its three and a half centuries of existence.   The bridge is in what is now Serbia, and Andric sees it as the connection between the eastern Ottoman culture and the western Christian culture.   This is historical fiction at its most powerful.   Here is a quote from Ivo Andric.

    If people would know how little brain is ruling the world, they would die of fear.

I would really like to hear from anyone who is familiar with these novels and/or authors. Please leave a comment.

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