1946 Near Miss: The Wayfarers by Dan Wickenden

From the Dust Jacket:

When Norris Bryant emerged from his nether world of grief and desolation and took stock of himself, he was appalled. True, he was an outstanding newspaperman still, but that was cold comfort compared with his failure as a father.

Laura, his dynamic beautiful wife, had died ten years before, leaving Norris a legacy of despair and four children. The tenuous thread binding him to his two oldest, now living in neighboring Detroit, had thinned to a sporadic correspondence limited to the announcement of Charlie’s marriage and the birth of his son; the disquieting news that Laurette was now supplementing her meager salary by singing in a night club.

The two younger, living with Norris, were as aloof and impenetrable as strangers. There was thirteen-year old Joel, a calm solid enigma; and Patricia, nineteen, whose inscrutable facade hid a turbulent struggle. Clearly, Norris Bryant was not the only wayfarer groping along a dark passage fraught with many pitfalls.

And then Vincent Rourke, a talented but unstable young Lochinvar from the East, became casually interested in Patricia, opening a new realm of emotional experience for her, and a disturbing problem for Norris. The situation was not improved by the idle gossip of divorce Carola Wilmot, who resurrected disastrously an old scandal involving the hallowed Laura. Continue reading


1946 Near Miss: Apartment in Athens by Glenway Wescott

From the Dust Jacket:

This is the story of the inhumanity of the Germans in their occupation of defeated countries, of the anguish and the heroism of ordinary men under them—a story which will continue to have a great meaning for our time long after the actual defeat of Germany on the battlefield. It is the story of a simple, middle-class family, which in this book is Greek but which might be of any captive nation, for Greece in its pathetic fate and noble resistance only typifies the other conquered nations of Europe.

Mr. and Mrs. Helianos were nearly beaten—starving and ill in both mind and body—but their existence had been more or less their own until Captain Kalter was billeted in their best rooms, controlling their meagre rations and monopolizing their lives. Helianos had cousins who, because they were active in the underground, were heroic in the ordinary sense. But he and his wife were gentle and timid, conciliatory and long-suffering, with nothing to sustain them in their defeat except the tenderness of their old marriage and their pity for their children. Dulled by privation and spiritually crippled, they had watched their abnormally childish little girl grown imperceptive and as undemanding as a small, sick animal. They had seen their son Alex, still a small boy, already with the light of vengeance in his furtive eyes and a sad lust for blood, if it was German blood. The intrusion of Kalter only increased their grief, lowered their voices to fearful whispers, and made more miserable an already wretched existence.

It is the development of Kalter and his subtle calculated influence on the Helianos family that makes this book one of the most dramatic, penetrating studies to come out of this war. There are many types of Germans but few have been portrayed of the insidious, cunning brutality of Captain Kalter. Never once could he have conceived of wavering in his admiration for his Fuehrer even after hideous tragedy had fallen on his personal life as a product of his master’s war. In one way, however, Kalter was changed by this personal catastrophe, but a leave home and a promotion to the rank of Major. It allowed his self-pitying sentimentality to show itself. It led him to seek the companionship of Helianos to whom he preached the violent, mystical philosophy of Nazism; a doctrine frightening in its narrow, cold-blooded assurance. It was this doctrine, unsoftened by personal experience, that turned Kalter against the Greek and carried the German to his self-destruction. It was the tyranny of this single German on the family rather than the total effect of war that consummated the Helianos’ despair, that made the husband a martyr and the son a hero and turned the widowed mother from her hypochondria, in a final moment of sacrifice and strange worldly wisdom, to give her son over to the underground. Like the widow of the Gospel she “of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” Continue reading

The 1946 Novel Decision

The same jury that had been split the year before returned in 1946, and once again had trouble finding any common ground to recommend one novel over another. Unfortunately, the jury report from 1946 was missing in the Pulitzer Prize office when Heinz-Dietrich Fischer and Erica Fischer were compiling their multi-volume work, The Pulitzer Prize Archive, and I have been unable to find any indication online of what may have happened to the report, or whether it has in fact been located in the years since the Fischer’s work was published, so I am unable to reference the jury’s own statements on which books they preferred and why.

Thus, I must refer to John Hohenberg’s The Pulitzer Prizes for what little information I am able to find about the 1946 decision. Hohenburg claims the jury “was in even less agreement over the 1946 prize” than they had been the year before, and lists three books as being the top contenders: Apartment in Athens by Glenway Wescott, The Wayfarers, by Dan Wickenden, and Black Boy, by Richard Wright. Hohenberg goes on to claim that jury member Orville Prescott was particularly against recommending Black Boy, which he “refused to consider as a novel.”

While I have been unable to discover any further details behind the juror’s recommendations, the end result was the same: the Advisory Board voted to award no prize in the Novel category due to the indecision of the jury.

Currently Reading: Apartment in Athens by Glenway Wescott