Nathanael West Additional Biography


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Nathanael West, born Nathan Weinstein to an urban, middle-class Jewish family, did not write specifically about the Jewish experience, in the manner of, for example, Bernard Malamud. Rather, West wrote about the disease of twentieth century alienation, particularly in America. An unimpressive high school student and a dropout from Tufts University, West nevertheless was an insatiable reader who was graduated from Brown University in June, 1924. West then went to Paris for two years, where he was exposed to Surrealism, which places importance on subconscious thought and feeling, and to Dadaism, which was a protest against accepted beliefs in the arts and philosophy.

West’s first work, The Dream Life of Balso Snell, shows the influence of Surrealism and Dadaism. The wooden Trojan horse, for example, the site of poet Balso Snell’s journey, alludes to Homer as well as to the wooden hobbyhorse, the English translation of dada. This novel is an angry indictment of illusions and false dreams offered in literature, religion, art, and culture. All of West’s novels, in fact, end with condemnation of a false dream.

The vision of literary success did not materialize for West himself. His most acclaimed work, Miss Lonelyhearts, received rave reviews but only a few hundred copies had been delivered to stores when the publisher went bankrupt. A Cool Million, a savage parody of the American rags-to-riches myth,...

(The entire section is 437 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Nathanael West’s literary life has an irony that almost parodies his own novels. An original and very serious craftsman, he achieved in his short life little fame, except among a discerning few, and no popular success. Paperback editions of his novels have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in numerous editions, and West’s 1939 satire of Hollywood, The Day of the Locust, was made into a widely acclaimed motion picture in 1975.{$S[A]Weinstein, Nathan;West, Nathanael}

West was born Nathan Weinstein in New York City on October 17, 1903. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School but performed so poorly that he had to doctor his transcript to matriculate at Tufts University in 1921. There West’s grades...

(The entire section is 649 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Nathanael West was born Nathan Weinstein in New York City on October 17, 1903. (He legally changed his name in 1926.) West was the son of...

(The entire section is 574 words.)