Erskine Caldwell

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Caldwell, Erskine

(kôld`wəl), 1903–87, American author, b. White Oak, Ga. His realistic and earthy novels of the rural South include Tobacco Road (1933), God's Little Acre (1933), This Very Earth (1948), and Summertime Island (1969). Among his volumes of short stories are Jackpot (1940) and Gulf Coast Stories (1956). With his second wife, Margaret Bourke-WhiteBourke-White, Margaret
, 1904–71, American photo-journalist, b. New York City. One of the original staff photographers at Fortune, Life, and Time magazines, Bourke-White was noted for her coverage of World War II, particularly of the invasion of Russia and
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, he published You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), about Southern sharecroppers.


See E. T. Arnold, ed., Conversations with Erskine Caldwell (1988); biography by D. B. Miller (1995); study by J. E. Devlin (1984).

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Caldwell, Erskine


Born Dec. 17, 1903, in White Oak, Ga. American writer. Son of a minister.

Caldwell tried several professions in his youth. He made his writing debut with the short-story collection American Earth (1931). The theme of the provincial US South, with its racism, cruelty, and violence, was intensified in Caldwell’s subsequent short-story collections and the novels Tobacco Road (1932; Russian translation, 1938) and God’s Little Acre (1933).

From June to September, 1941, Caldwell was a correspondent in Moscow. He wrote journalistic accounts (Moscow Under Fire, 1942, and All-out on the Road to Smolensk, 1942) and the novel All Night Long (1942) about guerrilla warfare during the Great Patriotic War (1941–45). He visited the USSR again in 1959 and in 1963.

Caldwell’s writing was revitalized in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s—for example, the antiracist passion of the novels Jenny by Nature (1961) and Close to Home (1962). In the second half of the 1960’s, Caldwell began working in a journalistic documentary genre: both Writing in America (1967) and Deep South: Reminiscences and Reflections (1968) were concerned with the growth of self-knowledge among the “colored” in the most backward corners of the South. Caldwell’s realistic writing style is marked by humor, a sense of the grotesque, and the use of folklore.


The Complete Stories. Toronto, 1953.
The Weather Shelter. London, 1970.
In Russian translation:
Povesti i rasskazy. Moscow, 1956.
Dzhenni, Blizhe k domu. Moscow, 1963.
“Vdol’ i poperek Ameriki.” Neva, 1965, no. 6.


Iatsenko, V. I. Erskin Kolduell. Irkutsk, 1967.
Kashkin, I. Dlia chitatelia-sovremennika. Moscow, 1968. Pages 127–39.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Caldwell, Erskine (Preston)

(1903–87) writer; born in Moreland, Ga. In his early years he was a Hollywood screenwriter and foreign correspondent. His first novels, Tobacco Road (1932) and God's Little Acre (1933), were widely banned for obscenity, but they created an enduring portrait of "white trash" and stimulated others to write frankly about the South they knew. He produced 50 volumes of fiction, travel writing, and memoirs, but his literary reputation declined with later works. He collaborated on several books with his wife, photographer Margaret Bourke-White.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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