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Title: Nathanael West e l'insostenibile pesantezza dell'essere
Authors: De Biasio, Giordano
Keywords: Nathanael West's Jewish identityJews in AmericaNathanael West's change of identityNathanael West denying Jewish tradition
Issue Date: 2001
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Giordano De Biasio, "Nathanael West e l'insostenibile pesantezza dell'essere", in: Prospero. Rivista di Letterature Straniere, Comparatistica e Studi Culturali, VIII (2001), pp. 35-51
Series/Report no.: Prospero. Rivista di Letterature Straniere, Comparatistica e Studi Culturali
VIII (2001)
Nathanael West is perhaps the only Hebrew-American author to choose a nome de plume that encompasses both his creative self and his personal data. He was born in New York as Nathan Weinstein, son of two affluent parents hailing from Kovno, a Lithuanian village where German-speaking Jews enjoyed freedoms unknown in other parts of the Russian Empire. After the killing of Tsar Alexander and the subsequent wave of anti-Semitism, West’s relatives emigrated to New York where they decided for a radical Americanisation and kept themselves quite removed from the poorer Eastern European Jews. The author’s anxiety over assimilation led West to change his name and marked his attempt at removing his Jewish identity and blend with the WASP society surrounding him. Despite his best efforts, he is still identified as one of the greatest Hebrew-American writers.
The essay originates from the belief that a change of identity is a transformation that conditions the way in which world and literature are seen, and it wants to demonstrate that biographical elements, by influencing the compositional technique, “enter the work and thus belong to it”. The essay investigates the extent to which the attempt at letting his origins fall into oblivion may have influenced the textual facts in West’s novels.
Type: Article
ISSN: 1123-2684
Appears in Collections:2001 / 8 Prospero. Rivista di culture anglo-germaniche

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