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John Dos Passos

Novels 1920-1925 (LOA #142): One Man's Initiation: 1917 / Three Soldiers / Manhattan Transfer (Library of America John Dos Passos Edition #1)

John Dos Passos, Townsend Ludington


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Written in the decade before the publication of his famous U.S.A. trilogy, the three early novels collected in this Library of America volume record the emergence of John Dos Passos as a bold and accomplished chronicler of the upheavals of the early 20th century.

Dos Passos drew upon his experiences as a volunteer ambulance driver serving near Verdun in writing One Man’s Initiation: 1917 (1920), in which an idealistic young American learns of the fear, uncertainty, and camaraderie of war through his encounters with French soldiers and civilians. The unexpurgated text presented in this edition restores passages censored by the novel’s original publisher.

In Three Soldiers (1921) Dos Passos engaged in a deeper exploration of World War I and its psychological impact upon an increasingly fractured civilization. The novel depicts the experiences of Fuselli, a store clerk from San Francisco pathetically eager to win promotion; Chrisfield, an Indiana farmer who comes to hate army discipline; and Andrews, an introspective aspiring composer from New York, as they fight in the final battles of the war and then confront a world in which an illusory peace offers little respite from the dehumanizing servility and regimentation of militarized life.

Dos Passos described Manhattan Transfer (1925), a kaleidoscopic portrait of New York City in the first two decades of the 20th century, as “utterly fantastic and New Yorkish.” Drawing on the naturalism of Theodore Dreiser and the modernism of James Joyce, the novel follows the rising and falling fortunes of more than a dozen characters as they move through a bewildering maze of tenements and skyscrapers in which Wall Street speculators, theatrical celebrities, impoverished immigrants, and anarchist rebels all strive to make sense out of the chaos of modern urban existence.

 is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

Praise For John Dos Passos: Novels 1920-1925 (LOA #142): One Man's Initiation: 1917 / Three Soldiers / Manhattan Transfer (Library of America John Dos Passos Edition #1)

“Anyone who tried to find some of John Dos Passos’s classic novels and travel narratives in recent years would have had to look long and hard. Many of his books had been out of print. . . . Yet after years of neglect, Dos Passos’s reputation is once again on the rise, and The Library of America is publishing a new collection of his writing.” The New York Times

Library of America, 9781931082396, 880pp.

Publication Date: September 15, 2003

About the Author

John Dos Passos (1896–1970) was born in Chicago and graduated from Harvard in 1916. His service as an ambulance driver in Europe at the end of World War I led him to write Three Soldiers in 1919, the first in a series of works that established him as one of the most prolific, inventive, and influential American writers of the twentieth century.

Townsend Ludington, volume editor, is Cary C. Boshamer Professor of English and American Studies at the University of North Carolina and author of John Dos Passos: A Twentieth Century Odyssey.