Exiles from a Future Time

The Forging of the Mid-Twentieth-Century Literary Left

By Alan M. Wald

432 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 37 photos, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5349-8
    Published: April 2002
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-0867-9
    Published: December 2012

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Awards & distinctions

A 2002 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

With this book, Alan Wald launches a bold and passionate account of the U.S. Literary Left from the 1920s through the 1960s. Exiles from a Future Time, the first volume of a trilogy, focuses on the forging of a Communist-led literary tradition in the 1930s. Exploring writers' intimate lives and heartfelt political commitments, Wald draws on original research in scores of archives and personal collections of papers; correspondence and interviews with hundreds of writers and their friends and families; and a treasure trove of unpublished memoirs, fiction, and poetry.

In fashioning a "humanscape" of the Literary Left, Wald not only reassesses acclaimed authors but also returns to memory dozens of forgotten, talented writers. The authors range from the familiar Mike Gold, Langston Hughes, and Muriel Rukeyser to William Attaway, John Malcolm Brinnin, Stanley Burnshaw, Joy Davidman, Sol Funaroff, Joseph Freeman, Alfred Hayes, Eugene Clay Holmes, V. J. Jerome, Ruth Lechlitner, and Frances Winwar.

Focusing on the formation of the tradition and the organization of the Cultural Left, Wald investigates the "elective affinity" of its avant-garde poets, the "Afro-cosmopolitanism" of its Black radical literary movement, and the uneasy negotiation between feminist concerns and class identity among its women writers.

About the Author

Alan M. Wald is the H. Chandler Davis Collegiate Professor of English Literature and American Culture at the University of Michigan and is the recipient of the Mary C. Turpie Prize of the American Studies Association. His previous books include The New York Intellectuals, The Revolutionary Imagination, and Writing from the Left.
For more information about Alan M. Wald, visit the Author Page.


"Offers a great deal of consistently original, often entertaining, and always rigorous humane scholarship. . . . An essential corrective to decades of dogmatic scholarship that ignores or misidentifies the diversity of the American literary Left. [Wald's] dedicated spadework has brought to the surface much that has been neglected in the rich and varied history of dissenting traditions, a history to which many of us may well need to turn more regularly in years to come."--Studies in Contemporary Jewry

“Wald's enterprise is distinguished by his sympathy for his writers' existential struggle and his expansive notion of [literature]. . . . One could use his work to assemble a respectable mid-twentieth-century canon of pop Modernist and social realist left literature. . . . [Wald's] complicating of the received canon and deepening of individual political conflicts . . . makes one look forward to the final panel of his triptych.”--Nation

"Wald is one of this generation's finest scholars of the literary Left. . . . He breaks new ground in many ways. . . . Wald's study is richer in context than any other book in its field."--Choice

"Scholars in this area will find themselves consulting it as the encyclopedia on the subject. . . . Wald has written a story of pro-Communist cultural traditions in the United States that make us realize that there is no monolithic, unitary, story of the Left. . . . Exiles is one excellent and inspiring answer to how one might evaluate Communist influence on this multifarious, heterodox, unorganized, distinctly different, diffuse and scattered group of people who found themselves influenced by, in the orbit of, and in some cases deeply committed to the radical Left."--Against the Current

"The sheer range of Wald's research is often astonishing. . . . The chief delight of Exiles from a Future Time is the abundance of characters--a few of the downright wacky-- who people Wald's pages."--In These Times

"The book's publication is an important event. . . . Wald brings to this study a fresh angle that neither celebrates nor denigrates the literary production of Communist writers simply because of the manifest politics found in their texts."--Journal of American History