Authors: Edward Lewis Wallant

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist

Identity: Jewish

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Human Season, 1960

The Pawnbroker, 1961

The Tenants of Moonbloom, 1963

The Children at the Gate, 1964


Edward Lewis Wallant was born October 19, 1926, in New Haven, Connecticut. The son of Sol and Ann (Mendel) Wallant, he received his elementary and secondary education in public schools and briefly attended the University of Connecticut before joining the U.S. Navy as a gunner’s mate aboard the USS Glennon in 1944. After World War II ended he attended Pratt Institute (1947-1950) and later the New School for Social Research (1954-1955). Beginning in 1950 Wallant worked as a graphic artist for several advertising agencies. In 1957 he became art director at the McCann Erikson agency, and he held this position at the time of his death. His first novel, The Human Season, was published in 1960, and it received the Jewish National Book Award. It was followed in 1961 by The Pawnbroker. Both works received high critical acclaim. Wallant received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1962. On December 5, 1962, he died suddenly of an aneurysm; his untimely death cut short a career of unusual promise. He left behind two additional novels, which were published posthumously: The Tenants of Moonbloom and The Children at the Gate.{$I[AN]9810000030}{$I[A]Wallant, Edward Lewis}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Wallant, Edward Lewis}{$I[geo]JEWISH;Wallant, Edward Lewis}{$I[tim]1926;Wallant, Edward Lewis}

In spite of the recognition he gained, Wallant’s writing did not fit into the styles that were then fashionable. His profound sense of humor, although it depended to some extent upon absurdities, was not based upon existentialism, and although he was Jewish and was particularly concerned with Jewish themes, he was not generally described as a “Jewish writer”–in part because he regularly superimposed Christian symbolism on his Jewish characters and settings. His striking and sometimes grotesque characterizations, and his caustic wit and sly humor, are peculiarly his own. His fictional world, though full of problems and ridiculous situations, is not the conventionalized blind universe of irrationality, hopelessness, and despair. Wallant admired the human spirit and believed in its infinite possibilities.

BibliographyAyo, Nicholas. “The Secular Heart: The Achievement of Edward Lewis Wallant.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 12 (1970): 86-94. Compares Wallant to Fyodor Dostoevski to convey the former’s grim realism and emphasis of changes of heart, looking expressly at the religious element in Wallant’s characters.Galloway, David. Edward Lewis Wallant. Boston: Twayne, 1979. A full-length treatment of Wallant. Includes a chronology, notes, and an annotated bibliography.Gurko, Leo. “Edward Lewis Wallant as Urban Novelist.” Twentieth Century Literature 20 (October, 1974): 252-261. Examines Wallant’s metaphoric use of the city, which is ugly, perverted, dangerous, and cruel. Gurko claims, however, that in its sprawling vitality, the city also contains “seeds of its own reconstruction.”Lewis, Robert W. “The Hung-Up Heroes of Edward Lewis Wallant.” Renascence 24 (1972): 70-84. This substantial discussion examines all of Wallant’s novels, especially The Pawnbroker, paying particular attention to his sensitive, intellectual characters and his themes of suffering and rebirth. Also looks at his use of myth.Schulz, M. F. “Wallant and Friedman: The Glory and Agony of Love.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 10 (1968): 31-47. Compares Wallant and Bruce Jay Friedman, particularly in their use of humor and the theme of love. Finds Wallant’s characters examples of growth in sensibility and his novels affirmations of order and rebirth.Stanford, Raney. “The Novels of Edward Wallant.” Colorado Quarterly 17 (1969): 393-405. Examines some of Wallant’s characters and themes, concentrating especially on The Tenants of Moonbloom and The Pawnbroker. Wallant’s characters tend to undergo rebellion that leads to their rebirth.
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