Jerome David Salinger (1919-2010) published a single novel and only about 30 short stories and short stories. Nevertheless, the American writer is considered one of the most important writers of the 20th century. Some critics went so far as to describe the years 1948 to 1959 in the USA as the “Salinger era”. His novel “The Catcher in the Rye”, published in 1951, has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide – and the success continues. From 1953 Salinger lived completely withdrawn: He became famous for not wanting to be famous.
Youth and school leaving certificate (1919-1936)
Jerome David Salinger was born on January 1, 1919 in New York City. The only son of a wealthy Jewish businessman of Polish origin and his wife of Irish descent, he grew up in Manhattan. He attended McBurney School. He graduated from the Military Academy in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1936.
Study and publication of short stories (1937-1950)
As a young cadet, Salinger made his first attempts at writing. From 1937 to 1939 he studied in various disciplines at several universities in New York. At Columbia University he took a writing course. During these years his father also sent him to Poland and Vienna on business. Between 1940 and 1950, Salinger’s short stories appeared in American magazines.
Military service in World War II (1942-1946)
From 1942 to 1946 Salinger did his military service in the US Army. There he belonged to a secret service department. He was involved in the landing of the Allies in France and met Ernest Hemingway in liberated Paris. His experiences in World War II found their way into some of his stories. He was stationed in Gunzenhausen, Germany, for six months. The marriage with a German failed after a short time.
The only novel “The Catcher in the Rye” (1951)
In 1951 “The Catcher in the Rye” appeared. The protagonist is the adolescent Holden Caulfield, who wages a hopeless battle against falsehood and hypocrisy in his environment. The multi-layered novel was initially received divided by the critics. Nonetheless, the work is still an enormous success, including an international one. It has been sold more than 25 million times worldwide. The years 1948 to 1959 went down in literary history as the “Salinger era”.
“Nine Stories” (1953)
In 1953, Salinger selected nine of the stories he had previously published in magazines such as the New Yorker, which were published in book form under the title “Nine Stories”. On July 19, 1965, Salinger’s last published short story, “Hapworth 16, 1924”, appeared in the New Yorker. It was more than 20,000 words long and filled the entire issue. From then until his death in 2010 Salinger was silent.
Withdrawal from the public (from 1953)
From 1953 Salinger withdrew completely from the public and from then on lived behind high walls on his estate in Cornish, New Hampshire. From the 1970s onwards he did not give a single interview. Towards the end of the novel, Holden Caulfield also starts thinking about going away and living as a deaf-mute so as not to have to talk to anyone.
The publication of a biography of Ian Hamilton prevented Salinger in 1988 with legal support. Salinger’s daughter Margaret Ann (born 1955) from his second marriage, which had failed in 1967, wrote a book about her childhood in 1999; her brother Matthew (born 1960) protects his father’s privacy.
Death in 2010
JD Salinger died on January 27, 2010 at the age of 91 in Cornish, New Hampshire.