Based on the author's first-hand experience as an ambulance driver during World War I, this first novel is noteworthy for its vivid and colorful portrait of France at that time and for its passionate indictment of war. The author's disillusionment with war, for a time, turned him toward socialism and against capitalism. Finally, after being labeled "pro-German" and "pacifist," Dos Passos concluded that the quasi-religion of Marxism was far more brutal than "poor old Capitalism ever dreamed of." Reprinted from the unexpurgated original edition published by Cornell University Press in 1969.
John Dos Passos (1896-1970), after graduating from Harvard in 1916, became an ambulance driver on the Western Front; which he would later use as a backdrop for his first two novels: One Man's Initiation: 1917 (1920) and Three Soldiers (1921). Dos Passos published the technically innovative U.S.A. trilogy, which consists of the novels The 42nd Parallel (1929), 1919 (1931), and The Big Money (1936). The U.S.A. trilogy confirmed Dos Passos's position in the American literary canon. Edmund Wilson hailed Dos Passos on the publication of U.S.A. trilogy as "The first of our writers-with the possible exception of Mark Twain-who has successfully used colloquial American for a novel of the highest artistic seriousness."