Andersonville

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Kantor, Mackinlay. Andersonville. Cleveland: World, 1955. In print: New York: Plume, 1993.

Massive Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel that was Kantor's masterpiece and an aggressively-promoted bestseller of the mid-1950s.

The central figure in Kantor's vision of Andersonville is Ira Claffey, a beleaguered but humane master of a modest Georgia plantation. Ira finds, much to his dismay, that part of his land is to be the site of a prisoner-of-war camp, built partly by the labor of his impressed slaves. The story of the prison is told from the perspectives of dozens of reflector-characters, including the viciously hapless Henry Wirz, commandant of the prison; Harry Elkins, a valiant doctor who objects to the abuses of Andersonville and courts Ira's daughter Lucy; the happy-go-lucky whore Widow Tebbs and her colorfully-named brood of children; intellectual infantryman prisoner Nathan Dreyfoos, and many others. Controversial when published for its graphic gore, filth, and occasional obscenity, none of which shocks very much 50 years later.

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