In the span of time from the end of the Second World War to the early 1960s, a period in which the Cold War reaches its highest levels, we are witnessing a profound renewal of American literature, by a broader upheaval that affects the custom and, more generally, the entire American culture. Dangling man, the work with which S. Bellow made his debut in 1944, anticipates and summarizes that state of insecurity and lack of balance that will become a recurring motif of his corpus (including The adventures of Augie March, 1953; Herzog, 1960; Humboldt’s gift, 1975) and of much of the narrative of this season. If 1951 is the year in which JD Salinger publishes The catcher in the rye (known in Italy as Il Giovane Holden), a novel in which the youthful language of the period becomes the protagonist of one of the most fortunate literary texts of the twentieth century, 1952 is dominated by the release of Invisible man, a disturbing cross-section of internal interracial relationships, with which the African-American writer R. Ellison becomes one of the protagonists of contemporary fiction, opening a path that J. Baldwin, the other great black prose writer of the period, will contribute to consolidate with the novels Giovanni’s room (1956) and Another country (1962), and with the essays of Notes of a native son (1955) and Nobody knows my name (1961). Also in the second half of the 1950s, also given the debut of B. Malamud, who with The assistant (1957), the stories of The magic barrell (1958) and later with The fixer (1966), builds around the figure of the urban Jew a universe of composed desolation in which irony and black humor play a role not secondary; of the same period is the great success of Lolita (1955), which will make the rarefied writing of the Russian narrator and essayist V. Nabokov, first in Europe and since 1940 in the USA, one of the obligatory points of reference of the contemporary novel. Finally, an intellectual perhaps more representative of the fluidity of these years, is the multifaceted N. Mailer, which to the great resonance of The naked and the dead (1948), his first novel against the raw background of the recent conflict, will be followed by a series of tests (Barbary shore, 1951, Advertisement for myself, 1959, An American dream, 1965, The armies of the night, 1968) which, although unequal in quality and significance, are linked by a taste for provocation and a tendency to cross the boundaries between genres. The same happens in Myra Breckinridge (1968), a lucid satire by G. Vidal and in the successful experiment In cold blood (1966), with which T. Capote revisits the news using different narrative models. ● Even with regard to poetry, the post-war years are characterized by the great ferment with which different groups and schools enter the scene at the same time. Among these, the Black mountain school, which in the early 1950s will be created by C. Olson, with his ‘projective direction’, open and devoid of preconceived metric constraints, R. Creeley, D. Levertov and R. Duncan ; and the so-called group of ‘confessional’ poets, who in the reflection on personal experience, often painful, identify a possible link with the outside: R. Lowell and T. Roethke, J. Berryman and WD Snodgrass, S. Plath and A. Sexton. These expressions of a culturally very lively period must be accompanied by the non-conformism of the beat generation, to which poets such as L. Ferlinghetti, A. Ginsberg, G. Corso, the first LR Jones, and narrators such as W. Burroughs, J. Kerouac, and the group of the New York school, in which, at the end of the 1950s, poets of urban visionary converge, such as F. O’Hara, J. Ashbery and K. Koch. ● On the theatrical scene, the historical figure of O’Neill is succeeded by those of T. Williams and A. Miller, which in the decade following the end of the war will give rise to a particularly happy period for the American drama, the first with The glass managerie (1944), A street-car named desire (1947) and Cat on a hot tin roof (1955), the second with pieces of great impact on the contemporary debate, including Death of a salesman (1949), and The crucible (1953).
United States Literature During the Postwar Period