Writing Home

Selected World War II Letters of Leslie A. Fiedler

By Leslie A. Fiedler
Edited by Samuele F. S. Pardini
Introduction by Samuele F. S. Pardini

Subjects: World War Ii, Literary History, Jewish Studies, Intellectual History, American History
Paperback : 9798855800456, 464 pages, December 2024
Hardcover : 9798855800449, 464 pages, December 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-12-01
Expected to ship: 2024-12-01

Letters written by Leslie Fiedler to his wife Margaret from May 1944 to December 1945 while he was stationed in Hawaiʻi and various parts of the Pacific Theater as an intelligence officer during World War II.


The letters in Writing Home offer a glimpse into a crucially formative period in the life of Leslie A. Fiedler, one of the greatest literary critics and American public intellectuals of the twentieth century. Written to his wife and two sons between May 1944 and December 1945, while he was serving as a cryptologist and translator for the Office of Naval Intelligence, they contain firsthand accounts of his experiences in various locations in the Pacific Theater, including Hawai'i, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Guam, and China. Constrained by Navy censors from writing directly about his work as an intelligence officer, he writes, instead, on a variety of themes, events, places, and war situations, including the ethical contradictions between a war fought for and in the name of freedom on the one hand and the oppression of indigenous Hawai'ians and prisoners of war on the other. He also questions the mainstream, European-centered view of the war and provides new insights into the role of Jewish servicemen in World War II. Finally, the letters document the beginning of the formation of American intellectual life in the years preceding the Cold War, forcing us to rethink certain premises of American exceptionalism in the second half of the twentieth century. Taken together, they offer a unique and fascinating immersion into history through the eyes of one of the makers of post–World War II American literary culture.

Leslie A. Fiedler (1917–2003) was SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel L. Clemens Professor of English at the University at Buffalo and one of America's foremost literary and cultural theorists of the last century. The New York Times praised his book Love and Death in the American Novel as "one of the great, essential books on the American imagination." Samuele F. S. Pardini is Professor of American Studies and Italian Studies at Elon University. He is the author of In the Name of the Mother: Italian Americans, African Americans, and Modernity from Booker T. Washington to Bruce Springsteen, which won the 2018 Italian American Studies Association Book Award, and the editor of The Devil Gets His Due: The Uncollected Essays of Leslie A. Fiedler.


"Through these letters, readers are able to enter into an immediate and vivid perspective of an American G.I. and intelligence agent during wartime. They also demonstrate the evolution of an important writer's ideas, attitudes, and values, enriching our understanding of Fiedler and exploring a previously unknown developmental region of his life." — Geoffrey Green, San Francisco State University

"Leslie Fiedler, author of the iconic Love and Death in the American Novel, was one of the most influential twentieth-century American literary critics, and his letters have great literary, biographical, cultural, and historical significance. The art of letter writing has been sadly diminished amidst our era of emailing and texting, and I marvel at the spontaneity and energy of Fiedler's prose, which was obviously unrevised." — Jeffrey Berman, University at Albany