Dos Passos, John Roderigo

Dos Passos, John Roderigo,

1896–1970, American novelist, b. Chicago, grad. Harvard, 1916. He subsequently studied in Spain and served as a World War I ambulance driver in France and Italy. In his fiction, Dos Passos is said to have mingled the naturalism of Theodore DreiserDreiser, Theodore
, 1871–1945, American novelist, b. Terre Haute, Ind. A pioneer of naturalism in American literature, Dreiser wrote novels reflecting his mechanistic view of life, a concept that held humanity as the victim of such ungovernable forces as economics,
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 with the modernism of James JoyceJoyce, James,
1882–1941, Irish novelist. Perhaps the most influential and significant novelist of the 20th cent., Joyce was a master of the English language, exploiting all of its resources.
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. His first successful novel, Three Soldiers (1921), belonged to the group of socially conscious novels of disillusionment that appeared after the war. With Manhattan Transfer (1925) his major creative period began. Intertwining accounts of a succession of unrelated characters, the novel presents a composite picture of the meaninglessness and decadence of the life of the typical early 1920s New Yorker. In his finest achievement, the trilogy U.S.A. (1937), composed of The 42nd Parallel (1930), 1919 (1932), and The Big Money (1936), he developed the kaleidoscopic technique introduced in Manhattan Transfer. By skillfully weaving together narration, stream of consciousnessstream of consciousness,
in literature, technique that records the multifarious thoughts and feelings of a character without regard to logical argument or narrative sequence.
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, biographies of representative figures, and quotations from newspapers and magazines, Dos Passos portrayed the first three decades of the 20th cent. in America.

After U.S.A. the radical left-wing views that strongly colored his earlier works gave way to a conservative social philosophy. In his second trilogy, District of Columbia (1952), which includes Adventures of a Young Man (1939), Number One (1943), and The Grand Design (1949), he defended many of the principles he had previously criticized. In general, his later works lack the power and cohesion of his earlier novels, although Midcentury (1961) again skillfully presents the conflicts of contemporary society. His nonfiction works include Tour of Duty (1946), Men Who Made the Nation (1957), Mr. Wilson's War (1963), and Easter Island: Island of Enigmas (1971).


See T. Ludington, ed., The Fourteenth Chronicle: Letters and Diaries of John Dos Passos (1973); Dos Passos' autobiographical The Best Times (1967); biographies by T. Ludington (1980, repr. 1998) and V. S. Carr (1984); studies by L. W. Wagner (1979), M. Clark (1987), B. Maine, ed. (1988), L. Nanney (1998), and D. Harding (2003).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Dos Passos, John (Roderigo)


Born Jan. 14, 1896, in Chicago; died Sept. 30, 1970, in Baltimore. American writer.

The first novels of Dos Passos, One Man’s Initiation (1920) and Three Soldiers (1921; Russian translation, 1924), belong to the literature of the “lost generation.” The novel Manhattan Transfer (1925; Russian translation, 1927) began a period of formalistic experimentation for Dos Passos. His most important work is the trilogy U.S.A., which includes The 42nd Parallel (1930; Russian translation, 1931), Nineteen-Nineteen (1932; Russian translation, 1933), and The Big Money (1936); in it the writer sketched a panorama of life in the USA in the 1920’s. After the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, he broke with leftist circles. In the trilogy District of Columbia (1939-48), other novels (including Midcentury,1961), and journalistic writings, Dos Passos revealed his antidemocratic tendencies.


The Best Times: An Informal Memoir. New York, 1968.


Zatonskii, D. “Iskusy lukavogo besa.” Literaturnaia gazeta, June 6, 1963.
Geismar, M. Writers in Crisis. Boston, 1942.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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