“A moving and disturbing work—one which goes beyond events, to brood upon their meanings.”—Samuel Hynes, New York Times Book Review
In the summer of 1863, Adam Rosenzweig leaves a Bavarian ghetto and sails for the United States to fight for the North in the Civil War. Fired by a revolutionary idealism inherited from his father, he hopes to aid a cause that he believes to be as simple as he knows it to be just.
Over the course of his journey, Adam becomes witness to a world whose complexity does not readily conform to his ideals of liberty. When his twisted foot attracts unwanted attention on his voyage to America, he is threatened with return to Europe. He jumps ship in New York, only to be caught up in the violence and horror of the anti-draft riots. Eventually he reaches the Union Army, serving not as a soldier but as a civilian provisioner’s assistant. Adam’s encounters with others—among them a wealthy benefactor, a former slave, an exiled Southerner, a bushwacker and his wife—further challenge the absolutism that informs his view of the world and of his place in it.
First published in 1961, Wilderness remains a profoundly provocative meditation on the significance of the Civil War and the varieties of human experience. This new edition of the novel includes an insightful introductory essay by James H. Justus, Distringuished Professor Emeritus at Indiana University and author of The Achievement of Robert Penn Warren.
The Author: Robert Penn Warren (1905–1989)was born in Kentucky and studied at Vanderbilt and Oxford Universities. As a novelist, teacher, poet, and critic, he became one of America’s most celebrated men of letters and the only writer to receive Pulitzer Prizes for both poetry and fiction. In addition to Wilderness, his novels included All the King’s Men, World Enough and Time, and Band of Angels.