Terrence Des Pres

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Terrence Des Pres (1939 in Effingham, Illinois – November 16, 1987 in Hamilton, New York) was an American writer and Holocaust scholar.[1][2]


Terrence Des Pres graduated from Southeast Missouri State College in 1962. He went on to complete graduate degrees in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis. He spent time with John Nathan at Harvard University as Harvard Junior Fellows, where Des Pres was the society's sommelier and they formed a friendship.

He was married twice and had a son, Jean-Paul, with his first wife Judith. His widow, Liz, is now a physician living in the Boston area.


Des Pres is most well known for his work on the Holocaust documented in: The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps.

At Colgate University he taught "Literature of the Holocaust" and was the William Henry Crawshaw Chair in Literature. At Colgate, he spent time with writer Frederick Busch.

He wrote Praises and Dispraises, published posthumously in 1988, which dealt with poetry and its usefulness for survival.


According to John Nathan's memoir, Des Pres committed suicide on November 16, 1987. Des Pres' death was ruled "accidental" by the Madison county medical examiners office, Madison, NY. According to a 1990 Boston Globe article, Des Pres died by hanging.

After his death, poet Paul Mariani spoke at a service for Des Pres at Colgate, where they may have spent time together as Mariani worked on his master's degree.

See also[edit]

  • List of Harvard Junior Fellows
  • Carolyn Forché, who was influenced by Des Pres, and organized the "Genocide and Memory" conference in 1997, where Des Pres was remembered. Her poem "Ourselves or Nothing" is about Des Pres.
  • Peter Balakian, poet and Colgate professor, also organized the 1997 "Genocide and Memory conference. In addition to their Colgate connection, Balakian is of Armenian descent, and Des Pres' work with survival literature included the Armenian genocide.
  • Paul Mariani, poet, wrote the introduction to Des Pres' collection of essays "Writing Into the World"
  • Geoffrey Hartman, professor at Yale University, had interviewed Des Pres and presented a video of it at the "Genocide and Memory" conference along with a paper.


  • The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps. New York: Oxford University Press. 1976. ISBN 0-19-501952-0.; reprint, Oxford University Press, 1980, ISBN 978-0-19-502703-7
  • Praises & dispraises: poetry and politics, the 20th century. Viking. 1988. ISBN 978-0-670-80406-1.
  • Writing into the World. New York: Viking. 1991. forward by Elie Wiesel ISBN 0-670-80464-9
  • "Remembering Armenia" to introduce The Armenian Genocide in Perspective. edited by Richard G. Hovannisian Transaction Publishers: 1986. ISBN 0-88738-636-9 ISBN 978-0-88738-636-7
  • "Introduction" for Treblinka: The inspiring story of the 600 Jews who revolted against their murderers and burned a Nazi death camp to the ground, by Jean-Francois Steiner. Plume, 1994. ISBN 0-452-01124-8


  • Reginald Gibbons; Terrence Des Pres, eds. (1992). Thomas McGrath: life and the poem. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-01852-7.



  1. ^ "Terrence Des Pres, 47, A Writer and Professor". The New York Times. November 18, 1987.
  2. ^ Paul R. Bartrop, Steven L. Jacobs (2010). Fifty Key Thinkers on the Holocaust and Genocide. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-77550-2.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  3. ^ "Past Winners". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved 2020-01-21.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)