Nelson Algren Abraham

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General Information

Celebrated on the Illinois State Library Gwendolyn Brooks Building

Nelson Ahlgren.jpg
Name: Nelson Ahlgren Abraham

Pen Name: Nelson Algren


Born: 1909 in Detroit, Michigan

Died: 1981 in Long Island, New York

Illinois Connection

When Algren was three years old, his parents moved to Chicago. He was raised in an immigrant neighborhood on the South Side, educated in Chicago's public schools, and studied journalism at the University of Illinois graduating in 1931.

Biographical and Professional Information

Nelson Algren combined subjects drawn from street life with an eloquent, poetic style in a series of novels and short stories, many of which were set in Chicago's Polish communities. During WWII Algren served as a private in an U.S. Army field artillery unit and then as a medical corpsman and was eventually stationed in France. Algren used this experience in several of his short stories, which appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Noble Savage, Playboy and Esquire. He also worked intermittently on the W.P.A. Illinois Writers' Project.

Algren's breakthrough novel came at the age of 41 with The Man with the Golden Arm. The work received the National Book Award and became a successful Hollywood film starring Frank Sinatra in 1956. He was invited to Hollywood to write the screenplay. His book, A Walk on the Wild Side, was also filmed.

He taught creative writing at the universities of Iowa and Florida, and regularly wrote a column for the Chicago Free Press. Algren moved to Long Island in September 1980 and died there of a heart attack on May 9, 1981.

Published Works

  • Neon Wilderness (Avon 424), Avon, 1952
  • The Devils Stocking, The Arbor House Library, 1983
  • Somebody in Boots: A Novel (Classic Reprint Series), Thunder's Mouth Press, 1987
  • A Walk on the Wild Side: A Novel , Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998
  • Never Come Morning, Seven Stories Press, 2001
  • The Man with the Golden Arm, Seven Stories Press, 2003
  • The Neon Wilderness, Seven Stories Press, 2003
  • The Devil's Stocking, Seven Stories Press, 2006
  • Entrapment and Other Writings , Seven Stories Press, 2009
  • Algren at Sea: Notes from a Sea Diary & Algren at Sea--The Travel Writings, Seven Stories Press, 2009

Titles at Your Library

Literary Awards

The Man with the Golden Arm

  • National Book Award

Other Awards

  • Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2010
  • Name engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures, 1990

External Links

Nelson Algren Abraham on WorldCat


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