John Treadwell Nichols is an accomplished novelist and essayist whose work shows a deep concern for progressive politics. A deeply committed Marxist, Nichols expresses in his writings a belief that the earth will not become ecologically sound until there is economic justice and equality.
Nichols grew up in a world of contradictions. His paternal ancestors were quintessentially American. They helped settle colonial New England, and one of his forebears, William Floyd, signed the Declaration of Independence. Nichols’s mother, Monique Le Braz, was French and a descendant of Anatole Le Braz, a renowned writer. Nichols’s father, David G. Nichols, was a naturalist and a liberal, yet he worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and moved his family to segregated Virginia. Many of Nichols’s relatives were wealthy, but the author’s immediate family was of the middle class and had strong working-class sympathies.
In 1942 Nichols’s mother died of endocarditis while his father was fighting in the Solomon Islands. David Nichols remarried, and his son grew up in many states, including Florida, New York, California, and Connecticut. John Nichols attended Hamilton College near Utica, New York. After graduation, he lived for a year with his maternal grandmother in Spain, where he wrote his first novel, The Sterile Cuckoo.
Back in New York City, Nichols rented an apartment on West Broadway and worked on five novels at once, drew cartoons, and played folk music on Bleeker Street. His carefree existence was about to be radically transformed. In 1964, he sold his novel of young love, The Sterile Cuckoo, and traveled to Guatemala, where the violence and crushing poverty shocked him into becoming a Marxist. After the 1966 appearance of The Wizard of Loneliness, he turned to writing highly political...
(The entire section is 758 words.)