"the greatest writer of our time" Jean-Paul Sartre
John Dos Passos' first novel, a barely disguised autobiography of his withering experiences in France in 1917, was written from diaries he kept when a volunteer in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps, the Red Cross and finally the American Army. A series of sharp, vivid, disconnected impressions written with beautiful, powerful simplicity, conveying the urgency and immediacy of a flowing stream of events. Powerful descriptions of suffering, broken bodies squalor and disintegration are juxtaposed with extraordinarily acute descriptions of beauty.
It was published in 1920 by Allen & Unwin with Dos Passos contributing to publication costs. In the first six months it sold only 63 copies. Were it not for the success of his next novel Three Soldiers it may never have been republished.
"The business of a novelist is, in my opinion, to create characters first and foremost, and then to set them in the snarl of the human currents of his time, so that there results an accurate permanent record of a phase of history." John Dos Passos