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Delphine Pontvieux will read a selection of Simone de Beauvoir’s love letters to her lover Nelson Algren at the event tonight.

The Nelson Algren Committee hosts the 21st annual Nelson Algren Birthday Party on Saturday, March 27, 8 p.m. at St Paul’s/Acme Art Center, 2215 W. North Avenue in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, Algren’s home turf. The Party pays tribute to the National Book Award-winning author of The Man with a Golden Arm, Chicago: City on the Make and other works that combine gritty noir realism with a profound compassion for the underdog.

The event also honors community artists and activists who work in the Algren spirit. This year’s recipients of the Nelson Algren Committee Award include film preservationist and presenter extraordinaire James Bond, legendary stride pianist and teacher Erwin Helfer and eco-activist Erika Allen. Past Algren Award winners – including political maven Don Rose and veteran activist David Williams – will attend the event and say a few words.

Veteran photographer and Algren cohort Art Shay is a regular attendee at the birthday event, and his slide presentation/Q&A will give attendees a firsthand look at Algren’s world. This year’s celebration will also feature Algren scholar Nathaniel Mills, discussing Algren’s art and politics; notable local poets Charlie Newman, John Goode and Paul Ryan; award-winning novelist Bayo Ojikutu, actors Richard Henzel and Charles Richards, Algren documentarian Michael Caplan, historian/writer/photojournalist Sisi Donald Mosby, and musicians John Garvey and Larry Jones. A selection of love letters written to Algren by his very significant other, Simone de Beauvoir, will be read by author Delphine Pontvieux. On display will be the Nelson Algren Archive, a collection of materials put together by the Committee to commemorate Algren’s tenure in Wicker Park, as well as video footage of Algren in full storytelling action.

This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of Howard Zinn, whose People’s History of the United States is history as Algren would have written it, from the standpoint of humanity. Past Algren Committee Award winner Denis Mueller, co-director of the documentary Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, will talk about his friendship with the great progressive historian. Our sponsor is the Near Northwest Arts Council, whose visionary director, Laura Weathered, has overseen many a Birthday Party. And we are grateful to the Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA #33, which again has generously supported the Birthday Party.

Admission is $10 at the door, with seniors and students (bring that ID!) admitted at the knockdown price of five bucks. Libations will be available at a cash bar, with the proceeds dedicated to keeping Algren’s memory alive. Committee members Warren Leming and Hugh Iglarsh will help MC this years event; Alice Prus will lead partygoers in a rendition of the traditional Polish birthday anthem Sto Lat, ably assisted by Nina Gaspich and Kurt Jacobsen. Door prizes and refreshments will also be featured.

When the Committee started in the 1980s, all of Algren’s work was out of print. In 2010, all of Algren’s work is available (thanks in part to Committee support), his house is graced by a plaque, he has a memorial fountain right on the Blue Line, City on the Make has been dramatized by the Lookingglass troupe, and a passel of startlingly famous writers and actors performed a reading of his work at a centennial celebration last hear at a packed Steppenwolf Theatre. But Algren’s genius has never been fully recognized in his hometown, and the Committee’s work continues. For updates and more information, visit our Web site at


One Comment

  1. Read this article written by John Ross.
    John Ross is an old time radical writer. He attended the Nelson Algren’s birthday party while in Chicago. Delphine’s reading of Simone de Beauvoir’s love letters to Nelson is what he remembered from the event!

    here is the excerpt of the article:
    “This time around, Michael escorted me to the late Nelson Algren’s birthday party in a church close by this Chicago scribbler’s Division Street neighborhood during which mash notes from his lover Simone de Beauvoir were read, lending credence to Frankie Lyman’s pointed inquiry “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”

    Read the full article here:

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