Albert Halper

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Template:Infobox novelist

Albert Halper (1904–1984) was an American novelist and playwright.


Born in 1904 and raised in Chicago, Halper went to live and work in New York City in 1929. His work came to the attention of Elliot E. Cohen, who published him in his magazine, the Menorah Journal. Not long after, he met newly established literary agent Maxim Lieber, becoming Lieber's third client.

New York in 1930s[edit]

Cohen also arranged a residency at the Yaddo writers colony through Clifton Fadiman. At Yaddo, Halper met Leonard Ehrlich, Winthrop Sargeant, Aaron Copland, Paul Bowles, Louis Lozowick, Pierre Loving, Percy MacKaye, Gregorio Prestopino, Lola Ridge, and Mildred Gardner. He attended an address by Diego Rivera at a meeting of the John Reed Club. Kenneth Fearing rented his flat while Halper was earning money in a summer camp outside New York, where he met Sender Garlin.[1]

Other people whom he knew included more from the Menorah Journal circle: Elliott Cohen, Herbert Solow, and Tess Slesinger. Garlin introduced him to Whittaker Chambers (then, an editor at the New Masses). Fellow clients of literary agent Maxim Lieber included Louis Adamic, Erskine Caldwell, Katherine Anne Porter, John Cheever, Josephine Herbst, Albert Maltz, John O'Hara, James Farrell, Nathanael West, Maxim Gorky, and Theodore Dreiser. He makes special mention of three African-American writers: Claude McKay, Langston Hughes (another client of Lieber's), and Richard Wright, each of whom he knew in varying degrees.

Halper traveled to Moscow in the early 1930s. En route, he stopped in London, where he met famed Russian translator, Constance Garnett. In Moscow, he met former New Masses editor Walter Carmon and Bertolt Brecht.

Union Square books[edit]

His first novel, Union Square, was a Literary Guild selection..").[2] In his New Masses review, Mike Gold slammed the novel as "a gold brick, an utter bourgeois sham," while citing its praise from other writers who included Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair, Carl Van Doren, Horace Gregory, and Lewis Gannett. Lieber quickly got two articles by Halper published by the New Masses, thereby restoring his Leftist credibility.

In his 1970 memoir, Good-Bye, Union Square, Halper recalled the Leftist literary scene and impact of the Great Depression. The title for memoir and earlier novel come from the place Halpert considered the focal point of his life in New York. "Union Square became my hangout."[1]

Political Stance[edit]

Good-bye, Union Square records also the impact of the Spanish Civil War and ensuing Hitler-Stalin Pact on New Yorkers.[1]

The New York Times wrote that, because of Union Square's tenement characters and Depression background, "the author thereafter was branded a 'proletarian writer.' Mr. Halper disliked being labeled because, he said, his subjects were 'people' in a variety of situations."[2] Halper reflected with more insight about himself among New York Intellectuals of the 1930s and how they related to the Left as fellow travellers and communists: "I felt no attachment to it [the Communist Party] whatsoever. I was sympathetic to some of its aims, as were many non-Party intellectuals, but these broad aims, I knew, were not the exclusive property of any political organization — anyone could be in favor of them — and consequently I didn't feel any sense of loyalty to the Party line." (Good-bye, Union Square, p. 138)

Hiss-Chambers Case[edit]

The FBI interviewed Halper about his association with Maxim Lieber and Whittaker Chambers as part of the Hiss-Chambers Case. The case and Lieber's role turn Good-bye, Union Square from a simple memoir into a tale with intrigue.[1]


In 1984, Halper died in Pawling, New York, from leukemia, aged 79. Survivors included wife Lorna and son Thomas.[2]




  • Top Man
  • My Aunt Daisy


  • This is Chicago (1952)


  • Good-bye, Union Square: A Writer's Memoir of the Thirties (1970)



  1. ^ a b c d Halper, Albert (1970). Good-bye, Union Square. Quadrangle Books. pp. 8–14, 15–20, 42–47, 55–68, 79, 89–97, 135–136, 184–185, 211–218, 219–224. ISBN 978-0-8129-0150-4. 
  2. ^ a b c "Albert Halper Is Dead at 79; Was Novelist and Playwright". New York Times. January 20, 1984. Retrieved May 21, 2010. 

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