Algren, Nelson, 1909-1981

Alternative names
Birth 1909-03-28
Death 1981-05-09

Biographical notes:

Nelson Algren, born in 1909 in Detroit, spent the majority of his adult life in Chicago. His love/hate relationship with the city and his affinity with the disenfranchised of society are reflected in such works as Neon Wilderness, The Man with the Golden Arm, for which he won the National Book Award in 1950, and Chicago: City on the Make. The caustic tone, and cynical nature of Algren did not often make him a favorite of the critics or "literary establishment" of Chicago. The antagonism between Algren and the city establishment eventually turned him bitter toward Chicago, and led to his departure for New Jersey in 1975.

From the description of The Nelson Algren collection, 1933-1999. (Chicago Public Library). WorldCat record id: 70214753

American author.

From the description of TM (copy). (Cornell University Library). WorldCat record id: 173274660

From the description of Letters to William Targ [manuscript], 1943-1961. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647816324

Chicago writer.

From the description of Nelson Algren short stories and postcard, 1949-1972. (Newberry Library). WorldCat record id: 184987059

Chicago writer.

Born Nelson Algren Abraham in Detroit in 1909, Algren grew up in Chicago, where he lived in the blue-collar neighborhoods of the city. After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1931, he began drifting around the country working at whatever jobs he could find until he made the decision to become a writer. During World War II Algren served in the military as a private, and after demobilization in 1945, settled in various poor neighborhoods of Chicago, spending his time reading and writing short stories. His novel of 1949, The Man With the Golden Arm, was his biggest success, winning the National Book Award and becoming a movie. Nine years later, his second novel to be filmed was A Walk on the Wild Side. Algren's body of work, based as it is on much of the seamy side of life, is in the tradition of American social realism, so that he has been described as the poet of the underworld. Algren moved from Chicago to Paterson, New Jersey, in 1975. He died of a heart attack in 1981.

From the description of Nelson Algren papers, 1960-1975. (Newberry Library). WorldCat record id: 396148641


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Manuscripts, American
  • Short stories, American--20th century
  • American literature
  • Bohemianism
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975
  • Authors, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Neo--Nazism


not available for this record


  • Chicago (Ill.) (as recorded)
  • Illinois--Chicago (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Illinois--Chicago (as recorded)