“When one realizes that his life is worthless he either commits suicide or travels.”
Loved this quote from Edward Dahlberg, a forgotten novelist of the twentieth century. Dahlberg came to his vagabondage honestly. Born with the century in 1900, he and his mother Elizabeth (no mention of a father) lived as vagabonds until 1905, when she began operating the Star Lady Barbershop in Kansas City. (Was it a barber shop or something else? It's unclear.)
Edward bounced between Catholic and Jewish orphanages until he was 16. Still, he managed to attend Berkeley and Columbia, where he earned a B.S. in philosophy. (Was it the Jewish and Catholic ferment?)
He served in the U.S. Army in World War I, losing the use of an eye after a rifle butt smacked him. In the 1920s, he became part of the expat scene in Paris (where else?) His first novel, Bottom Dogs, was based on his experiences in the orphanages and travels in the American West. It was published in London; D.H. Lawrence wrote the intro.
Using his advance money to head home, Dahlberg headed for Greenwich Village. He visited German in 1933, where he wrote anti-Nazi articles for the London Times, warning German intellectuals, Jews, communists and anarchists that they should get outta Dodge.
In 1934, he published the first American anti-Nazi novel, Those Who Perish. He was considered a proletarian novelist in the 1930s; by the 1940s, he became a spokesman for a fundamental humanism, becoming a mover and shaker in the Stieglitz Group, which promoted international human rights. He spoke out against the mistreatment of African-Americans, Indigenous Americans, Jews, immigrants, and workers, and was arrested several times.
After reading Dante, Shakespeare, and Thoreau, he abandoned social realism. He moved to the Danish island of Bornholm, and then to Mallorca. His books from this era sound racy: The Flea of Sodom, The Sorrows of Priapus, and his autobiography: Because I Was Flesh.
Before his death in 1977, he lived in Dublin and Wicklow, London, Madrid, Malaga, Mexico City and the Seychelles.
In the cool writers you never heard of category, this cowgirl thinks Dahlberg might be worth a look.
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