Louis Adamic

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Louis Adamic
Louis Adamic.jpg
Alojz Adamič

(1898-03-23)March 23, 1898
DiedSeptember 4, 1951(1951-09-04) (aged 53)
Milford, New Jersey, United States
OccupationAuthor, translator
AwardsAnisfield-Wolf Book Award for From Many Lands

Louis Adamic[notes 1] (Slovene: Alojz Adamič; March 23, 1898[notes 2] – September 4, 1951) was a Slovene-American author and translator, mostly known for writing about and advocating for ethnic diversity of the United States.[4]


Praproče Manor, birthplace of Louis Adamic

Alojz Adamič was born at Praproče Mansion in Praproče pri Grosupljem in the region of Lower Carniola, in what is now Slovenia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The oldest son of a peasant family, he was given a limited childhood education at the city school and, in 1909, entered the primary school at Ljubljana. Early in his third year he joined a secret students' political club associated with the Yugoslav Nationalistic Movement that had recently sprung up in the South-Slavic provinces of Austria-Hungary.

Swept up in a bloody demonstration in November 1913, Adamic was briefly jailed, expelled from school, and barred from any government educational institution. He was admitted to the Jesuit school in Ljubljana, but was unable to bring himself to go. "No more school for me. I was going to America," Adamic wrote. "I did not know how, but I knew that I would go."[5]

On December 31, 1913, at the age of 15, Adamič emigrated to the United States.[6]

He finally settled in a heavily ethnic Croatian fishing community of San Pedro, California. He became a naturalized United States citizen in 1918 as Louis Adamic.[citation needed]


Adamic first worked as a manual laborer and later at a Yugoslavian daily newspaper, Narodni Glas ("The Voice of the Nation"), that was published in New York. As an American soldier he participated in combat on the Western front during the First World War[citation needed]. After the war he worked as a journalist and professional writer.[citation needed]

All of Adamic's writings are based on his labor experiences in America and his former life in Slovenia. He achieved national acclaim in America in 1934 with his book The Native's Return, which was a bestseller directed against King Alexander's regime in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. This book gave many Americans their first real knowledge of the Balkans. It contained many insights, but proved far from infallible: Adamic predicted that America would prosper by eventually "going left", i.e. turning socialist.[citation needed]

He received the Guggenheim Fellowship award in 1932. During the Second World War he had supported the Yugoslav National liberation struggle and the establishment of a socialist Yugoslav federation. He founded the United Committee of South-Slavic Americans in support of Marshal Tito. From 1949 he was a corresponding member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.[citation needed]

From 1940 onwards he served as editor of the magazine Common Ground. Adamic was the author of Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence in America (1931); Laughing in the Jungle: The Autobiography of an Immigrant in America (1932); The Native's Return: An American Immigrant Visits Yugoslavia and Discovers His Old Country (1934); Grandsons: A Story of American Lives (1935, novel); Cradle of Life: The Story of One Man's Beginnings (1936, novel); The House in Antigua (1937, travel); My America (1938); From Many Lands (1940); Two-Way Passage (1941); What's Your Name? (1942); My Native Land (1943); Nation of Nations (1945); and The Eagle and the Root (1950). Maxim Lieber was his literary agent, 1930–1931 and in 1946. In 1941, Adamic won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for From Many Lands.[citation needed]

Adamic was strongly opposed to the foreign policy followed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and in 1946 wrote Dinner at the White House which purported to be an account of a dinner party given by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at which Adamic and Churchill had both been present. After the proofs had been passed by publishers Harper and Brothers, an additional footnote was inserted in pages 151 and 152 which claimed that Churchill had opposed the National Liberation Front in Greece because they intended to scale down the rate of interest Greece was paying to Hambros Bank. The footnote further claimed that Hambros had "bailed Winston Churchill out of bankruptcy in 1912".[citation needed]

The footnote appeared in the book when it was published, and a copy was circulated to every British Member of Parliament; when Churchill was alerted, he instructed his solicitors to issue a writ for libel. Harper and Brothers admitted the statement was untrue and Adamic also withdrew the claim and apologised; a substantial sum of damages was paid,[7] reported by the Daily Express as £5,000.[8] As of 2011 the copy of Dinner at the White House in the British Library is held in the 'Suppressed Safe' collection, inaccessible to readers.[9]

His support for the Tito regime led to him being targeted by Nevada Senator Pat McCarran, who between May and September 1949, chaired a subcommittee to expose Soviet sympathizers among ethnic communities.[10]


Plagued by failing health, he is believed to have shot himself at his residence in Milford, New Jersey. He died at a time of political tension and intrigue in Yugoslavia, and there was press speculation in America that his death might have been an assassination by some Balkan faction, but no definitive proof of this theory has ever surfaced.[citation needed]


According to John McAleer's Edgar Award-winning Rex Stout: A Biography (1977), it was the influence of Adamic that led Rex Stout to make his fictional detective Nero Wolfe a native of Montenegro, in what was then Yugoslavia.[11] Stout and Adamic were friends and frequent political allies, and Stout expressed uncertainty to McAleer about the circumstances of Adamic's death. In any case, the demise seems to have inspired Stout's 1954 novel The Black Mountain, in which Nero Wolfe returns to his homeland to hunt down the killers of an old friend.[citation needed]


Louis Adamic in 1930 lecture poster

Articles in Harper's Magazine:

  • "Racketeers and organized labor" (1930)
  • "Sabotage" (1930)
  • "Tragic towns of New England" (1931)
  • "The land of promise" (1931)
  • "The collapse of organized labor" (1931)
  • "Wedding in Carniola" (1932)
  • "Home Again From America," Harper's Magazine (October 1932)[12]
  • "Death in Carniola" (1933)
  • "Thirty million new Americans" (1934)
  • "Education on a mountain" (1936)
  • "Aliens and alien-baiters" (1936)
  • "The Millvale apparition" (1938)
  • "Death in front of the church" (1943)



  • Yugoslav proverbs (1923)
  • Yerney's justice (1926)
  • Struggle (1934)
  • Yugoslavia and Italy by J. B. Tito (1944)
  • Liberation. Death to fascism! Liberty to the people! Picture story of the Yugoslav people's epic struggle against the enemy--to win unity and a decent future, 1941-1945 (1945)
Adamic wrote a biography of Robinson Jeffers (here in 1937, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, via Library of Congress)


  • Truth about Los Angeles (1927)
  • Word of Satan in the Bible : Christians rightly regard Ecclesiastes suspiciously (1928)
  • Robinson Jeffers: a portrait (1929, 1970, 1977, 1983)
  • Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence in America (1931, 1960, 1976, 1983, 1984, 2008)
    • Boj (1969)
  • Laughing in the jungle; the autobiography of an immigrant in America (1932, 1969)
    • Smijeh u džungli : autobiografija jednog američkog useljenika (1932)
  • Native's return: an American immigrant visits Yugoslavia and discovers his old country (1934, 1943, 1975)
    • Vrnitev v rodni kraj (1962)
  • Grandsons: a story of American lives (1935, 1983)
  • Lucas, king of the Balucas (1935)
  • Cradle of life: the story of one man's beginnings (1936)
  • House in Antigua: a restoration (1937)
  • My America, 1928-1938 (1938, 1976)
  • America and the refugees (1939, 1940)
  • From many lands (1940)
  • Plymouth Rock and Ellis Island : summary of a lecture (1940)
  • Two-way passage (1941)
  • Inside Yugoslavia (1942)
  • What's your name? (1942)
  • Foreign-born Americans and the war with George F. Addes (1943)
  • My native land (1943)
  • Nation of nations (1945)
  • Dinner at the White House (1946)
  • Eagle and the roots (1952, 1970)


  1. ^ Adamic told The Literary Digest: "My name is pronounced in this country (i.e. America) exactly as the word Adamic, pertaining to Adam": a-dam'ik.[1] His original surname was Adamič, pronounced in Slovenian a-DAH-mich.
  2. ^ The year 1899 is often cited and is also written on Adamic's tombstone, but is incorrect. It was written in Adamič's certificate of origin by the mayor in Grosuplje in 1913, in order to enable Adamic to leave Austro-Hungarian Empire, which did not allow 15-year-old boys to leave the country, because they were to enter the army.[2] The correct year is written in the register of births of the Parish of Žalna.[3]


  1. ^ Funk, C. E. (1936) What's the Name, Please?: A guide to the correct pronunciation of current prominent names, Funk & Wagnalls Company, Digitized February 12, 2010
  2. ^ "Unknown". Slavistična revija. Slavistično društvo v Ljubljani, Inštitut za slovenski jezik, Inštitut za literaturo, 1982. 30: 352. 1982. Cite uses generic title (help)
  3. ^ Adamič, France (1983). Spomini in pričevanja o življenju in delu Louisa Adamiča [Memories and Testimonies about the Life and Work of Louis Adamic] (in Slovenian). Ljubljana: Prešernova družba [Prešeren's Society]. p. 19. COBISS 14064129.
  4. ^ Shiffman, D. (2003) Rooting Multiculturalism: The Work of Louis Adamic, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, ISBN 9780838640029
  5. ^ Adamic, Louis. Laughing in the Jungle: The Autobiography of an Immigrant in America. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1932. Reprinted by Arno Press and The New York Times, 1969; pp. 10–35.
  6. ^ In his author's note to his autobiography, Laughing in the Jungle (1932), Adamic describes himself as being "a boy of fourteen and a half" in 1913, when he left his native country for America (p. ix). "Late in the afternoon of the last day of 1913 I was examined for entry into the United States, with about a hundred other immigrants who had come on the Niagara (p. 43).
  7. ^ "Mr. Churchill gets damages and apology", The Manchester Guardian, January 16, 1947, p. 3.
  8. ^ "Libel on Churchill – damages £5,000", Daily Express, January 16, 1947, p. 3.
  9. ^ "The SS [Suppressed Safe] Collection of the British Library". Scissors & Paste Bibliographies. Retrieved October 12, 2011.
  10. ^ John P. Enyeart, "Revolutionizing Cultural Pluralism: The Political Odyssey of Louis Adamic, 1932-1951", Journal of American Ethnic History, 34:3, (Spring 2015), pp. 58-90
  11. ^ For more information see the origins section of the article on Nero Wolfe.
  12. ^ Adamic, Louis (October 1932). "Home Again From America". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved June 25, 2020.

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