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Nelson Algren, Documents & Ephemera Grouping

Algren was the First Recipient of the National Book Award


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A Collection of Nelson Algren Documents and Ephemera, much of it related to Simone de Beauvoir, and Chicago.

Two of the sleeved-packets are related and are probably drafts of Algren’s review of Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The Coming of Age. The first packet is five mimeographed pages of typewritten pages, the second packet is eight pages. Each bears Algren’s signature at top. Both contain a great deal of the material in the review. Although there are no dates, the included Los Angeles Times Book Review is dated June 25, 1972. The review is one of the newspaper articles included.

The third sleeved-packet is 19 pages on onion skin paper, and contains much material that is similar to the above, but then veers into a story about Algren’s and de Beauvoir’s trip to Tunisia. The first page bears the words “Early Draft of The Way” (illegible) and is signed by Nelson Algren.

Algren, Nelson (1909-1981) Collection consisting of four sleeved packets of varying pagination, approximately 40  pages of typescript (both sides) with numerous handwritten notations a newspaper copy of a review written by Algren and another article related to him. 

Nelson and Simone

Algren’s and de Beauvoir’s affair is well-documented; beginning in 1947. De Beauvoir, visiting Chicago during her first visit to America, called Algren from a café at the Palmer House. The couple travelled extensively together, both domestically and internationally. But by 1950, she had gone back to her long-time lover, Jean Paul Sartre. She continued writing.  Algren is featured in her 1954 book, The Mandarins, the character Lewis Brogan is based on him.  Algren was outraged by her graphic and open sharing of their sexual experiences. The Mandarins which received the Prix Goncourt, France’s highest literary award, in 1954. 

Never to speak again after 1964, Algren remained bitter until the very end; de Beauvoir was buried wearing his ring.

Additionally, there are about 40 pages from the above packets housed together in an envelope. These contain substantial edits in a variety of handwritings; some probably Algren’s. There is a photocopy set as well.

The final sleeved-packet is an edited version of the Tunisia story. Ten typed pages, on evenly-toned paper, it bears pencil notations at the top saying “”Sky” will publish a version of this “Sky” perhaps being an in-flight magazine. A typed notation at the top indicates “Now with Candida Donadio, under title Hocine.” Donadio was the literary agent for Philip Roth, Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, Robert Stone, Michael Herr, Bruce Jay Friedman and Mario Puzo.

It is interesting to note that Algren often used the backside of letters and other paper for typing paper. One page is from the Office of the Warden of Cook County Jail, it discusses Algren speaking to the inmates in their education program. Another is a flyer (rather rough condition) for a panel discussion on The Abolition of Capital Punishment, moderated by Chicago icon Stud’s Terkel. The talk was sponsored by The Chicago Maroon Forum. The Chicago Maroon is the student newspaper of the University of Chicago and is still published today.

Finally, included is an article from the January 21, 1979 issue of the Chicago Sun Times. The article, titled Nelson Algren: The Angry Author discusses Algren’s longtime contentious relationship with Chicago and his 1975 exodus to New Jersey. Algren would eventually be laid to rest in Long Island City, never to return to Chicago again.

Condition is overall very good; some dog-eared pages, paperclip shadows, minor soiling, LA Times Book Review has been folded in quarters.

Abraham Lincoln Book Shop’s owner and president, Daniel Weinberg, talked about this collection on our program, Stranger Than Fiction. Watch it Below: