While he is working on his novel, he is drawn into the lives of the lovers Nathan Landau and Sophie Zawistowska, fellow boarders at the house, who are involved in an intense and difficult relationship. Sophie is beautiful, Polish, and Catholic, and a survivor of the Holocaust and Nazi concentration camps; Nathan is a Jewish-American, and, purportedly, a genius. Although Nathan claims to be a Harvard graduate and a cellular biologist with a pharmaceutical company, it is later revealed that this is a fabrication. Almost no one—including Sophie and Stingo—knows that Nathan has paranoid schizophrenia. He sometimes behaves quite normally and generously, but there are times when he becomes frighteningly jealous, violent, abusive and delusional. As the story progresses, Sophie tells Stingo of her past.
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His father, a shipyard engineer, suffered from clinical depression , which Styron himself would later experience. His mother died from breast cancer in when Styron was still a boy, following her decade-long battle with the disease. Styron attended public school in Warwick County, first at Hilton School and then at Morrison High School now known as Warwick High School for two years, until his father sent him to Christchurch School , an Episcopal college-preparatory school in the Tidewater region of Virginia.
Styron once said, "But of all the schools I attended By the age of eighteen he was reading the writers who would have a lasting influence on his vocation as a novelist and writer, especially Thomas Wolfe.
There he published his first fiction, a short story heavily influenced by William Faulkner , in an anthology of student work[ citation needed ]. Styron published several short stories in the University literary magazine, The Archive, between and Marine Corps , the Japanese surrendered before his ship left San Francisco.
After the war, he returned to full-time studies at Duke and completed his Bachelor of Arts B. After provoking his employers into firing him, he set about writing his first novel in earnest. The novel received overwhelming critical acclaim.
Military service[ edit ] His recall into the military due to the Korean War prevented him from immediately accepting the Rome Prize. Styron joined the Marine Corps, but was discharged in for eye problems. However, he was to transform his experience at Camp Lejeune , North Carolina into his short novel, The Long March , published serially the following year.
Travels in Europe[ edit ] Styron spent an extended period in Europe. In , the group founded the magazine Paris Review , which became a celebrated literary journal. Finally able to take advantage of his Rome Prize, he traveled to Italy, where he became friends with Truman Capote.
At the American Academy, he renewed an acquaintance with a young Baltimore poet, Rose Burgunder, to whom he had been introduced the previous fall at Johns Hopkins University.
They were married in Rome in the spring of The novel received mixed reviews in the United States, although its publisher considered it successful in terms of sales.
In Europe its translation into French achieved best-seller status, far outselling the American edition. Feeling wounded by his first truly harsh reviews[ citation needed ], for Set This House on Fire, Styron spent the years after its publication researching and writing his next novel, the fictitious memoirs of the historical Nathaniel "Nat" Turner , a slave who led a slave rebellion in During the s, Styron became an eyewitness to another time of rebellion in the United States, living and writing at the heart of that turbulent decade, a time highlighted by the counterculture revolution with its political struggle, civil unrest, and racial tension.
The public response to this social upheaval was furious and intense: battle lines were being drawn. Among the criticisms was outrage over a black author choosing a white woman as the protagonist in a story that tells of her involvement with a black man. Particularly controversial was a passage in which Turner fantasizes about raping a white woman. Styron also writes of a situation where Turner and another slave boy have a homosexual encounter while alone in the woods. Several critics pointed to this as a dangerous perpetuation of a traditional Southern justification for lynching.
Despite the controversy, the novel was a runaway critical and financial success, and won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction ,  and the William Dean Howells Medal in It was banned in South Africa, censored in the Soviet Union, and banned in Poland for "its unflinching portrait of Polish anti-Semitism"  It has also been banned in some high schools in the United States.
It won the National Book Award  [a] and was a nationwide bestseller. It explored the phenomenology of the disease among sufferers, their loved ones, and the general public as well. Earlier, in December , Styron had written an op-ed for The New York Times responding to the disappointment and mystification among scholars about the apparent suicide of Primo Levi , the remarkable Italian writer who survived the Nazi death camps , but apparently fell victim to depression in his final years.
The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain. Through the healing process of time—and through medical intervention or hospitalization in many cases—most people survive depression, which may be its only blessing; but to the tragic legion who are compelled to destroy themselves there should be no more reproof attached than to the victims of terminal cancer. His short story "Shadrach" was filmed in , under the same title.
It was co-directed by his daughter Susanna Styron. Maw wrote the libretto and composed the music. He had approached Styron about writing the libretto, but Styron declined. The F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Achievement in American Literature award is given annually in Rockville Maryland, the city where Fitzgerald, his wife, and his daughter are buried, as part of the F.
Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival. In he was awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal. The neighborhood describes itself as a "mixed-use new urbanism development.
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