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More Writers of the Spanish Civil War

Experience Put to Use


Edited By Celia M. Wallhead

Further to the first book, Writers of the Spanish Civil War: The Testimony of Their Auto/Biographies (2011), which featured the writings on the war (1936–39) of six key British and American authors: Gerald Brenan, Robert Graves, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, Stephen Spender and Laurie Lee, this new work studies the actions in the war of those physically involved and writings focused on the war, either at the time or later, by eight more foreign authors: Virginia Woolf, John Dos Passos, Franz Borkenau, V. S. Pritchett, André Malraux, Arthur Koestler, Martha Gellhorn and Peter Kemp. In addition to comparing their autobiographies with what their biographers said, in order to show up any discrepancies, as had been done in the first book, here, the texts are scrutinized to detect use of stereotypes or adaptation of the material to other purposes in the writing. New perspectives are introduced now in that two of the authors are women, one writing from a distance but deeply affected by the war (Virginia Woolf) and one active in journalism on the spot (Martha Gellhorn), and our final author, Peter Kemp, went to Spain to fight on the side of the Nationalists under Franco as opposed to the Republicans.

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Chapter 2. John Dos Passos (1896–1970) Dubious films and lost friends (Laura Torres Zúñiga)


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Chapter 2.  John Dos Passos (1896–1970)Dubious films and lost friends

Brief biography

Autobiographical material

It is a truth universally acknowledged that ‘Dos Passos saw no harm whatsoever in incorporating autobiography in his fiction, especially where his childhood was concerned’ (Westerhoven 1976, 250), and that his experiences and ideological perspectives often worked their way into his fictional writing. Thus, he wrote up some of the horrors he witnessed as an ambulance driver in the First World War in his first novel One Man’s Initiation: 1917 (1920) and in Three Soldiers (1921). The ‘Camera Eyes’ of his novel U.S.A. (1938) contain much of his own testimony; biographer John H. Wrenn calls the episodes ‘roughly chronological’ and sees them as ‘his stream-of-memory autobiography’ (1961, 23). Later in life, Dos Passos was to publish two semi-autobiographical novels: Chosen Country (1951) and The Great Days (1958). Wrenn labels the former a ‘thinly disguised autobiography’ (1961, 32) and explains the need to disguise his life as owing to his illegitimacy and the delicate situation of his parents, both married to other partners until ← 53 | 54 → the deaths of these partners. Also, from his earliest reporting and participation in the two World Wars, Dos Passos wrote factual accounts and testimonies of his activities. For instance, his travel volume In All Countries (1936) collected impressions of the United States, Russia, Mexico and pre-Civil War Spain, while in Tour of Duty...

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