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Dahlberg, Edward


DAHLBERG, EDWARD (1900–1977), U.S. novelist and critic. Born in Boston, Dahlberg was the illegitimate son of a Kansas City barber and had a miserable childhood, being committed first to a Catholic, and later to a Jewish, orphanage, remaining in the latter from the age of 12 until he was 17. For the next two years he led a vagabond existence, supporting himself by work in a wide range of occupations, from truck driver and cattle drover to dishwasher and clerk. He then studied at Berkeley (California) and Columbia universities, became a teacher, and moved to Europe, where he first began writing in 1926. Dahlberg's early experiences inspired the semi-autobiographical novels Bottom Dogs (1929) and From Flushing to Calvary (1932). Those who Perish (1934) dealt with the impact of Nazism, the rise of which he had seen in Germany, on a small American-Jewish community. With his later works – mainly "prophetic" criticism – the writer gained a considerable reputation as spokesman for the avant-garde, although he soon abandoned his political commitment to Communism. Dahlberg's other books include Do These Bones Live (1941); Sing O Barren (1947); Flea of Sodom (1950), an attack on modern civilization; The Sorrows of Priapus (1957), a study of three world cultures (illustrated by Ben *Shahn); Truth Is More Sacred (1961), correspondence with the English writer, Sir Herbert Read; and The Carnal Myth (1968). Dahlberg was considered an outstanding prose stylist and later taught at universities in the U.S., receiving various literary awards. His autobiography, Because I Was Flesh, appeared in 1963, and his letters, Epitaphs of Our Times, in 1967. Steven Moore edited Samuel Beckett's Wake and Other Uncollected Prose (1989), an anthology of Dahlberg's uncollected writings.


H. Billings, Edward Dahlberg (1968); idem, A Bibliography of Edward Dahlberg (1971); F. Moramarco, Edward Dahlberg (1972); C. DeFanti, Wages of Expectation: A Biography of Edward Dahlberg (1978).

[Milton Henry Hindus]

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