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Works of Radical Imagination

There lies an ocean of life at our doorsteps — Richard Wright on "Never Come Morning: A Novel" by Nelson Algren

July 29

by Richard Wright

To celebrate the publication of our new paperback edition of Never Come Morning: A Novel by Nelson Algren, we're proud to share the original 1942 introduction by Richard Wright, author of many iconic works including Native Son and Black Boy.

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Nelson Algren’s innocent, bold, vivid, and poetic imagination—as is exemplified in this novel, Never Come Morning—has long brooded upon the possibility of changing the social world in which we live, has long dreamed of the world’s being different, and this preoccupation has, paradoxically, riveted and directed microscopic attention upon that stratum of our society that is historically footloose, unformed, malleable, restless, devoid of inner stability, unidentified by class allegiances, yet full of hot, honest, blind striving. Algren’s centering of his observation upon the lowly and brutal strivings of a Bruno Bicek is the product of his sound instinct and reasoning, for, strangely enough, the Bruno Biceks of America represent those depths of life—the realm of the irrational and the nonhistorical—that periodically push their way into the arena of history in times of crisis, war, civil war, and revolution.

It would be interesting to speculate how diverse contemporary literary talents would have handled and developed the subject matter of Never Come Morning. Many competent novelists would not have considered its subject matter as legitimate material, would have condemned this subject matter, no doubt, as being sordid and loathsome. Others would have treated it lightly and humorously, thereby implying that it possessed no important significance. Still others would have assumed an aloof “social worker attitude” toward it, prescribing “pink pills for social ills,” piling up a mountain of naturalistic detail. A militant minority, shooting straight to the mark, would have drawn blueprints and cited chapter and page in a call for direct action. I think, however, Nelson Algren’s strategy in Never Come Morning excels all of these by far, inasmuch as it depicts the intensity of feeling, the tawdry but potent dreams, the crude but forceful poetry, and the frustrated longing for human dignity residing in the lives of the Poles of Chicago’s North West Side, and the revelation informs us all that there lies an ocean of life at our doorsteps—an unharnessed, unchanneled and unknown ocean. And Algren does this in prose as real, as sensory, as tactile, and as sharp as a left hook from Bruno Bicek, his pugilistic protagonist.

Most of us 20th century Americans are reluctant to admit the tragically low quality of experiences of the broad American masses; feverish radio programs, super advertisements, streamlined skyscrapers, million-dollar movies, and mass production have somehow created the illusion in us that we are “rich” in our emotional lives. To the greater understanding of our times, Never Come Morning portrays what actually exists in the nerve, brain, and blood of our boys on the street, be they black, white, native, or foreign-born. I say this for the public record, for there will come a time in our country when the middle class will gasp and say (as they now gasp over the present world situation): “Why weren’t we told this before? Why didn’t our novelists depict the beginnings of this terrible thing that has come upon us?” Well, Mr. and Mrs. American Reader, you are being told: The reality of the depths of our lives is being depicted. Algren’s Never Come Morning vies with the war for your attention, and vies in terms of literary realism as hard-hitting as any to be found in American prose.

Richard Wright
New York
February 1942

Introductions by Richard Wright and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Afterword by Daniel Simon 
Contribution by H.E.F. Donahue

Never Come Morning is unique among the novels of Algren. The author's only romance, the novel concerns Bruno Bicek, a would-be boxer from Chicago's Northwest side, and Steffi, the woman who shares his dream while living his nightmare. "It is an unusual and brilliant book," said The New York Times. "A bold scribbling upon the wall for comfortable Americans to ponder and digest." This new edition features an introduction by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and an interview with Nelson Algren by H.E.F. Donohue.

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