Nelson Algren

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Algren, Nelson

Algren, Nelson (ôlˈgrən), 1909–81, American novelist, b. Detroit. He grew up in Chicago, and much of his fiction is set in the city's slums. His novels, such as Never Come Morning (1942), The Man with the Golden Arm (1949, National Book Award), and A Walk on the Wild Side (1956), are brutally realistic. Around 1960 he stopped writing novels, his career having been sabotaged by the secret efforts of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI to silence him. Later he mainly wrote journalistic pieces, reviews, and, in a lighter vein, the personal sketches collected in Who Lost an American (1963), Notes from a Sea Diary (1965), and The Last Carousel (1973).


See biography by C. Asher (2019).

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Algren, Nelson (b. Nelson Ahlgren Abraham)

(1909–81) writer; born in Detroit, Mich. He trained as a journalist after a childhood in the Chicago slums. After working at a variety of jobs during the Depression, he settled in Chicago and became a leading exponent of the Chicago school of realism; his five streetwise novels include The Man With the Golden Arm (1949, National Book Award) and A Walk on the Wild Side (1956). After 1956 he wrote mostly stories and essays, producing only one novel (1981). In later years he became known for having had an affair with the French intellectual/writer, Simone de Beauvoir.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.