JOHN DOS PASSOS
John Dos Passos, the illegitimate son of a prominent American attorney, was born in Chicago in 1896. Brought up by his mother in Portugal, Dos Passos returned to the United States to attend Harvard University.
Dos Passos left university to join the Allied war effort in Europe. He served as an ambulance driver in France and Italy during the First World War and afterwards drew upon these experiences in his novels, "One Man's Initiation" (1920) and "Three Soldiers" (1921).
In 1922 Dos Passos published a collection of essays, "Rosinante to the Road Again", and a volume of poems, "A Pushcart at the Curb". However, his literary reputation was established with his well-received novel "Manhattan Transfer" (1925).
As well as writing plays such as "The Garbage Man" (1926), "Airways" (1928) and "Fortune Heights" (1934), Dos Passos contributed articles for left-wing journals such as "The New Masses".
In 1927 he joined with other artists such as Upton Sinclair, Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Ben Shahn, Floyd Dell in the campaign against the proposed execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. This included the writing of "Facing the Chair: Sacco and Vanzetti" (1927).
The 1930s saw the publication of his USA trilogy: "The 42nd Parallel" (1930), "1919" (1932) and "The Big Money" (1936). Dos Passos developed the experimental literary device where the narratives intersect and continue from one novel to the next. The USA trilogy also included what became known as newsreels (impressionistic collections of slogans, popular song lyrics, newspaper headlines and extracts from political speeches).
Dos Passos was active in the campaign against the growth of fascism in Europe. He joined other literary figures such as Dashiell Hammett, Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman and Ernest Hemingway in supporting the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. However Dos Passos gradually became disillusioned with left-wing politics and this is reflected in his novels, "The Adventures of a Young Man" (1939) and "Number One" (1943).
Other books by Dos Passos include the novels, "The Grand Design" (1949), "Chosen Country" (1951) and "Midcentury" (1961), a biography, "The Head and Heart of Thomas Jefferson" (1954) and an autobiography, "The Best of Times: An Informal Memoir" (1966). John Dos Passos died in 1970.