Frederic Prokosch

Frederic Prokosch (May 17, 1906 – June 2, 1989)[1] was an American writer, known for his novels, poetry, memoirs and criticism. He was also a distinguished translator.


Prokosch was born in Madison, Wisconsin, into an intellectual family that travelled widely. His father, Eduard Prokosch, an Austrian immigrant, was Professor of Germanic Languages at Yale University at the time of his death in 1938.[2] Prokosch was graduated from Haverford College in 1925 and received a Ph.D. in English in 1932 from Yale University. In his youth, he was an accomplished squash racquets player; he represented the Yale Club in the 1937 New York State squash racquets championship.[3] He won the squash-racquets championship of France in 1938.

During World War II, Prokosch was a cultural attaché at the American Legation in Sweden. He spent most of the remainder of his life in Europe, where he led a peripatetic existence. His interests were sports (tennis and squash), lepidoptery, and the printing of limited editions of poems that he admired.

From early on, Prokosch sought to surround himself with a veil of mystification and cast his life into a hopeless riddle. Approaching his sixtieth year, he boasted that no person had succeeded in knowing him as an integral personality: "I have spent my life alone, utterly alone, and no biography of me could ever more than scratch the surface. All the facts in Who’s Who, or whatever, are so utterly meaningless. My real life (if I ever dared to write it!) has transpired in darkness, secrecy, fleeting contacts and incommunicable delights, any number of strange picaresque escapades and even crimes, and I don't think that any of my 'friends' have even the faintest notion of what I'm really like or have any idea of what my life has really consisted of. . . .With all the surface 'respectability,' diplomatic and scholarly and illustrious social contacts, my real life has been subversive, anarchic, vicious, lonely, and capricious."[4]

The publication of Voices: A Memoir in 1983, advertised as a record of his encounters with some of the century's leading artists and writers, returned Prokosch to the limelight. His early novels The Asiatics and The Seven Who Fled were reissued to much public acclaim. In 2010, Voices was shown to be almost wholly fictitious and part of an enormous hoax.[5] Prokosch died in Le Plan-de-Grasse (near Grasse), France.

Literary work

Prokosch's novels The Asiatics and The Seven Who Fled received widespread attention in the 1930s. The action in both of these narratives takes place in Asia, a continent Prokosch had not visited but wrote about from his imagination and from books and maps. Landscape descriptions are so prevalent that the landscape often takes on the role of a character in its own right. Albert Camus said about The Seven Who Fled, "Prokosch has invented what might be called the geographical novel, in which he mingles sensuality with irony, lucidity with mystery. He conveys a fatalistic sense of life half hidden beneath a rich animal energy. He is a master of moods and undertones, a virtuoso in the feeling of place, and he writes in a style of supple elegance."[6]

New York Times critic L. H. Titterton wrote about The Asiatics:

"Whether such adventures ever happened to any one man, or whether, as seems far more likely, the author has supplemented certain experiences of his own by a rich imagination, using as its basis information gathered through wide reading, is immaterial. For this is actually a quiet, meditative book into which adventurous episodes have been introduced simply as a device for displaing various aspects of the Asiatic mind and spirit. It is the work of a man of a deeply poetic nature possessed of an astonishing ability to describe in a few words a color, a scene, an odor, an emotional situation, an attitude of mind, an idea; words so well chosen that passage after passage seems perfectly to express some truth that we have many times, in a stumbling way, attempted to state.[7]

Writing in the New York Times, Harold Strauss said about The Seven Who Fled (which won the Harper Prize):

In singing, supple prose, with an evocative power strange to our earthbound ears, with passion and often with fury, Frederic Prokosch takes us off to the vast, mysterious reaches of Central Asia. It is a weird adventure of the spirit on which he leads us. For, mistake not, despite the apparently realistic description of the endless reaches of the desert, of the topless towers of the snow-capped mountains, of the huddling villages in which men rot away in poverty and disease, this Central Asia of Prokosch's is not actual place upon the face of the earth. Like Xanadu, like Arcadia, like Atlantis or Aea [sic] or Poictesme, it is a phantom manufactured by a restless mind. ...Whatever the meaning of this book, and there will be much debate on that score, its wild lyrinative splendor and its profound emotional content mark it as a memorable novel.[8]

After the 1930s, popular interest in Prokosch's writing declined, but he continued to write steadily and to solidify his reputation as a writer’s writer with an elite following that included Thomas Mann, André Gide, Sinclair Lewis, Albert Camus, Thornton Wilder, Dylan Thomas, Anthony Burgess, Raymond Queneau, Somerset Maugham, Lawrence Durrell, Gore Vidal, and T.S. Eliot. “Pondering about Prokosch and his fate, I have come to the conclusion,” wrote Isaac Bashevis Singer, “that he is himself in a way at fault for being so woefully neglected. He has not cared to husband his natural riches... His roots are in this land. If Prokosch, like Faulkner, had limited his creative energies to one milieu, one region, he would certainly be counted today among the pillars of American literature.”[9] Among the most noteworthy of Prokosch’s latter-day writings are The Idols of the Cave (1946), a sophisticated story about a circle of aesthetes and socialites in New York City through the war years; Nine Days to Mukalla (1953), a dreamlike journey into the Arabian world; A Tale for Midnight (1955), a Gothicized retelling of the Cenci story; The Wreck of the Cassandra (1966), a realistic and poetic story of nine people castaway on a savage island; The Missolonghi Manuscript (1968), a “mediation” on the romantic artist; and America, My Wilderness (1972), an excursion into magical realism. Prokosch was named a Commander in the Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French government in 1984 and awarded the Volterra Prize two years later. His novels have been translated into 15 languages.


  • The Asiatics (1935), novel
  • The Assassins (1936), poems
  • The Seven Who Fled (1937), novel
  • The Carnival (1938), poems
  • Night of the Poor (1939), novel
  • Death at Sea (1940), poems
  • The Skies of Europe (1941), novel
  • The Conspirators (1943), novel (made into a movie of the same name in 1944)
  • Some poems of Friedrich Hoelderlin (1943), translator
  • Chosen Poems (1945), poems
  • Chosen Poems (1947, in the United States), poems
  • Age of Thunder (1945), novel
  • The Idols of the Cave (1946), novel
  • Louise Labé, Love sonnets (1947), translator
  • Storm and Echo (1948), novel
  • Nine days to Mukalla (1953), novel
  • Fire Song (1955), poems
  • A Tale for Midnight (1955), novel
  • Under the Winter Moon (1958), novel, written under the pseudonym of "Teresa Brooke"
  • Mother Was Always in Love (1960), novel by Philip Van Rensselaer and Frederic Prokosch, uncredited author
  • A Ballad of Love (1960), novel
  • The Seven Sisters (1962), novel
  • The Dark Dancer (1964), novel
  • The Wreck of the Cassandra (1966), novel
  • The Missolonghi Manuscript (1968), novel
  • America, My Wilderness (1972), novel
  • Voices: a Memoir (1984), fictional, autobiography


  1. ^ Robert Greenfield, Dreamer’s Journey: The Life and Writings of Frederic Prokosch (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2010), p. 17, 400.
  2. ^ Editors (August 12, 1938) "Prokosch of Yale Is Killed in Crash", New York Times, p. 17.
  3. ^ Editors (January 16, 1937), "Adams Turns back Foulke in 5 games", New York Times, p. 23.
  4. ^ Frederic Prokosch, letter to [John] Radcliffe Squires, 17 June [1963], Special Collections, Washington University Libraries, St. Louis. See also Greenfield, Dreamer’s Journey, p. 17.
  5. ^ Greenfield, Dreamer’s Journey, "Disembodied Voices", pp. 376-390.
  6. ^ Greenfield, Dreamer’s Journey, p. 42. See also note 16, p. 409.
  7. ^ Titterton, L. H. (October 27, 1935), "A Glowing Evocation of the Asian Way of Life", New York Times, p. BR3.
  8. ^ Strauss, Harold (August 29, 1937), "A Strange and Haunting Tale Set in Central Asia; Frederic Prokosch, in 'The Seven Who Fled,' Writes a Memorable Novel of Spiritual Adventure", New York Times, p. 81.
  9. ^ Singer, Isaac Bashevis, "On the Courage to be Old-Fashioned," Book World, January 14, 1968, p. 6. See also Greenfield, Dreamer's Journey, p. 19.

Further reading

  • Squires, Radcliffe (1964), Frederic Prokosch. New York: Twayne Publishers.
  • Max, Peter (1969), Frederic Prokosch, ein Romantiker des 20. Jahrhunderts: Mit bes. Berücks. d. Romane "The Asiatics" u. "The Seven Who Fled". Winterthur: Schellenberg.
  • Barker, Nicolas (1987), The Butterfly Books: an Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Twentieth Century Pamphlets. London: Bertram Rota.
  • Vidal, Gore (2000), "The Collector", in The Last Empire (Essays 1952–2000). Vintage.
  • Greenfield, Robert M. (2010), Dreamer's Journey: The Life and Writings of Frederic Prokosch. Newark: University of Delaware Press.

External links

1906 in poetry

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature (for instance, Irish or France).

1908 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1908.

1936 in poetry

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature (for instance, Irish or France).

1938 in poetry

Nationality words link to articles with information on the nation's poetry or literature (for instance, Irish or France).

A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry

A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry: English and American is an anthology of poetry, edited by Oscar Williams, which was published by Scribner's, New York, in 1946, and Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, in 1947. Another edition, enlarged and rearranged, was published in 1952.

In a letter to his friend Louis Zukofsky, William Carlos Williams wrote: "But if you happen to stumble across Scribner's latest, A Little Treasury of Modern Poetry, edited by O. Williams - look into it and die - of laughing. What a sell!"Geoffrey Hill's father bought him a copy of this anthology when Hill was about fifteen. He carried the book in his jacket pocket all around Worcestershire for several years until it disintegrated. He later recalled in a conversation with John Haffenden: "I think there was probably a time when I knew every poem in that anthology by heart."It was through this anthology that James Dickey came across the work of Dunstan Thompson, whose poem "Largo" displayed technical abilities that influenced Dickey's development.

Betelgeuse in fiction

The planetary systems of stars other than the Sun, such as Betelgeuse, are a staple element in much science fiction.

Eduard Prokosch

Eduard Prokosch (15 May 1876 – 11 August 1938) was an Austrian historical linguist who specialized in Indo-European and, specifically, Proto-Germanic studies. He was the father of Frederic Prokosch.

Prokosch was born in Eger, Bohemia (modern Cheb, Czech Republic) and studied law in Vienna, passing the bar examination before immigrating to the United States in 1898.

Prokosch taught German and Germanic philology at many American educational institutions, including the University of Chicago, the University of Texas, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Bryn Mawr College and New York University.

Prokosch finished his career as the Sterling Professor of Germanic Languages at Yale University, during which time he wrote his most influential work, A Comparative Germanic Grammar, which broke ground in the fields of Indo-European and Germanic studies. He died in an automobile accident in New Haven, Connecticut shortly before the book was published in 1939.


Grasse (French pronunciation: ​[ɡʁas]; Provençal Occitan: Grassa in classical norm or Grasso in Mistralian norm [ˈɡɾasɔ]; traditional Italian: Grassa) is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department (of which it is a sub-prefecture), on the French Riviera.

The town is considered the world's capital of perfume. It obtained two flowers in the Concours des villes et villages fleuris contest and was made "Ville d'Art et d'Histoire" (town of art and history).

Harper Prize

The Harper Novel Prize was an award presented by Harper Brothers, an American publishing company located in New York City, New York.

The award was presented to the best novel by an "unnoticed" writer. A number of the awarded books went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and many were adapted into films.

James Radcliffe Squires

Radcliffe Squires (May 5, 1917 – February 14, 1993) was an American poet, writer, critic, and academic. He published several well-regarded books of poetry, as well as biographical and critical works which focused on highly acclaimed 20th-century writers.

List of Guggenheim Fellowships awarded in 1937

List of Guggenheim Fellowships awarded in 1937.

List of compositions by Samuel Barber

This is a list of compositions by Samuel Barber sorted by genre, opus number, date of composition, and title.


A nocturne (from the French which meant nocturnal, from Latin nocturnus) is usually a musical composition that is inspired by, or evocative of, the night. Historically, nocturne is a very old term applied to night Offices and, since the Middle Ages, to divisions in the canonical hour of Matins.

Op. 13

In music, Op. 13 stands for Opus number 13. Some compositions assigned this number:

Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor

Chopin's Fantasy on Polish Airs in A major

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1 (Winter Daydreams)

Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 1 in D minor

Arnold Schoenberg's Friede auf Erden [Peace on Earth], Op. 13

Gustav Holst's Indra, Op. 13

Bartók's The Wooden Prince

Kodály's Psalmus Hungaricus

Anton Webern's Vier Lieder for voice and orchestra, Op. 13

Prokofiev's Maddalena (opera)

Paul Hindemith's Melancholie, Op. 13

Dmitry Kabalevsky's two piano sonatinas, Op. 13

Piano Sonatina No. 1 in C major, Op. 13, No. 1

Piano Sonatina No. 2 in G minor, Op. 13, No. 2

Dmitri Shostakovich's Aphorisms, ten pieces for piano, Op. 13

Samuel Barber's 4 Songs for voice and piano, Op. 13, which include:

A Nun Takes the Veil (Heaven-Haven) (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

The Secrets of the Old (W. B. Yeats)

Sure on this Shining Night (James Agee)

Nocturne (Frederic Prokosch)

Benjamin Britten's Piano Concerto, Op. 13

Alberto Ginastera's Duo, for flute and oboe, Op. 13

Oliver Knussen's Ophelia Dances, Op. 13

Mark Alburger's Three Places in America, Op. 13

Poems of Today

Poems of Today was a series of anthologies of poetry, almost all Anglo-Irish, produced by the English Association.


Prokosch may refer to:

Eduard Prokosch (1876–1938), Austrian-American historical linguist

Frederic Prokosch (1906–1989), American writer

Gertrude Prokosch Kurath (1903–1992), American dancer and ethnomusicologist

The Conspirators (1944 film)

The Conspirators (aka Give Me This Woman) is a 1944 American Film-noir, World War II, drama, spy film, thriller directed by Jean Negulesco. The film stars Hedy Lamarr and Paul Henreid, features Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre in supporting roles and a cameo of Aurora Miranda singing a Fado. The Conspirators was first considered a reunion of the Casablanca (1942) stars, who were originally offered leading roles.

Thomas Moult

Thomas Moult (1893–1974) was a versatile English journalist and writer, and one of the Georgian poets. He is known for his annual anthologies Best Poems of the Year, 1922 to 1943, which were popular verse selections taken from periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic.

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