Silone was 15 years old when an earthquake in his native Abruzzi killed his mother and five of his brothers. Before he was 20 he had established himself in Rome as editor of a socialist weekly. In 1921 he went off on the first of many trips to the Soviet Union and became a founding member of the Italian Communist party. Under fascism he hid at first, and then, in 1930, he fled to Switzerland, at which time, however, he also broke with the Communist party. The novels that made him world famous as an anti-Fascist were Fontamara (1930) and Bread and Wine, the latter first published in English in 1936 and then in 17 other languages as well as in Italian. Silone was virtually unknown in Italy until after World War II, by which time he had undergone a radical spiritual transformation that is explained in a very moving essay, "Emergency Exit," included in Richard Crossman's The God That Failed (1950).
J.J. Lee is Director of Glucksman Ireland House, Glucksman Professor of Irish Studies, and professor of history, at New York University. He is the author of the award-winning Ireland 1912-1985: Politics and Society.Irving Howe was born in the Bronx, New York on June 11, 1920. He became a socialist at the age of 14. He graduated from City College in 1940. During World War II, he served in the Army. After the war, he began writing book reviews and essays for several magazines including Commentary, The Nation, and Partisan Review. For four years, he earned a living writing book reviews for Time magazine. He taught English at several colleges including Brandeis University, Stanford University, Hunter College, and City University, which he retired from in 1986. In 1954, he and a group of close friends founded the radical journal Dissent. He was the editor for nearly four decades. Also in the 1950's, he met a Yiddish poet named Eliezer Greenberg and the two began a long project to translate Yiddish prose and poetry into English, eventually publishing six collections of stories, essays, and poems. He wrote several books including Decline of the New, Politics and the Novel, and an autobiography entitled A Margin of Hope. World of Our Fathers won the National Book Award in 1976. He wrote critical studies of William Faulkner and Sherwood Anderson and a biography of Leon Trotsky. He died of cardiovascular disease on May 5, 1993 at the age of 72.