Nelson Algren (1909 - 1981) was an American writer.
Born in Detroit and named Nelson Ahlgren Abraham, he moved to Chicago with his parents at the age of three to live in a poor immigrant neighbourhood on the South Side. His mother was a candy-store owner and his father the son of a Swedish convert to Judaism.
Algren was educated in Chicago's public schools and went on to study journalism at the University of Illinois, graduating during the Great Depression in 1931. He went South to find work -- a trip which found him in 1933 living in a derelict petrol station where he wrote his first short story, "So Help Me".
Algren articulated the world of "drunks, pimps, prostitutes, freaks, drug addicts, prize fighters, corrupt politicians, and hoodlums". He is probably best known for his 1950 National Book Award winning The Man with the Golden Arm. Nonconformity, published in 1994, presents Algren's side of the debacle which became the making of the 1956 film adaptation of this book. Nonconformity also expresses the belief system behind Algren's writing and a call to writers to investigate the dark and represent the ignored.
Algren was linked to Simone de Beauvoir and they travelled to Latin America together in 1949. De Beauvior said of Algren:
"At first I found it amusing meeting in the flesh that classic American species: self-made leftist writer. Now, I began taking an interest in Brogan. Through his stories, you got the feeling that he claimed no rights to life and that nevertheless he had always had a passionate desire to live. I liked that mixture of modesty and eagerness." (Simone de Beauvior in The Mandarins, 1957; dedicated to Nelson Algren, who is Lewis Bogan in the novel)
Somebody in Boots (1935)
Never Come Morning (1942)
The Neon Wilderness (1947)
The Man with the Golden Arm (1949)
Chicago, City on the Make (1951)
A Walk on the Wildside (1956) (Algren: "The book asks why lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost in their whole lives.")
Nelson Algren's own book of lonesome monsters. (1962) Who lost an American? (1963) Algren's own book of lonesome monsters. (1963) Conversations with Nelson Algren. (1964) The Last Carousel. (1973) The Devil's Stocking. (1983) America Eats. (1992) He swung and he missed. (1993) Nonconformity. (1994) The Texas stories of Nelson Algren. (1994)