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Kay Boyle


Kay Boyle was born in St Paul, Minnesota in 1903 but grew up in Cincinnati. She studied architecture in New York and then violin, before marrying the French-born engineer, Richard Brault. She then began working for the poet, Lola Ridge, who was editing an experimental magazine, Broom. She went with Brault to France to visit his family and ended up staying twenty years. During this period, she got to know many expatriate writers and was associated with many little magazines. While there, Harry Crosby‘s Black Sun Press published her Short Stories, her first published work of fiction.

She divorced Brault and, in the summer of 1928, met Laurence Vail, who was then the husband of Peggy Guggenheim. They married in 1932. They had three children and also brought up Vail’s two children by Peggy Guggenheim and Boyle’s daughter by Ernest Walsh, publisher of This Quarter and best known as one of the first publishers of Hemingway. She managed to write several novels, stories and poems during this period, many of which were politically ahead of their times, taking a feminist theme and pointing out the dangers of Nazism before this was generally realised. She returned to the United States in 1941 and divorced Vail two years later, marrying Baron Joseph von Franckenstein the same year. They moved to Germany in 1947, with Boyle working for The New Yorker. Von Franckenstein, who worked for the US Foreign Service, was fired under a McCarthyist purge. She became very much involved in activist causes when they returned to the US. In 1963 von Franckenstein died and she started teaching at San Francisco State University, where she was very much involved in the student demonstrations and she was fired during protests over the Vietnam War by then University president S I Hiyakawa (later a US Senator). She died in 1992.

Books about Kay Boyle

Joan. Kay Boyle Mellen: Author of Herself
Sandra Whipple Spanier: Kay Boyle, Artist and Activist

Other links

Kay Boyle
Kay Boyle
Kay Boyle Papers (with biography)


1929 Short Stories
1930 Wedding Day and Other Stories
1931 Plagued by the Nightingale (novel)
1932 Year Before Last (novel)
1932 A Statement (poetry)
1933 Gentlemen, I Address You Privately (novel)
1933 The First Lover and Other Stories
1934 My Next Bride (novel)
1936 365 Days (novel)
1936 The White Horses of Vienna and Other Stories
1936 Death of a Man (novel)
1938 A Glad Day (poetry)
1938 Monday Night (novel
1939 The Youngest Camel
1940 The Crazy Hunter – Three Short Novels (The Crazy Hunter; The Bridegroom’s Body; Big Fiddle)
1942 Primer for Combat (novel)
1944 American Citizen: Naturalized in Leadville (poetry)
1944 Avalanche (novel)
1946 A Frenchman Must Die (novel)
1946 Thirty Stories
1948 1939 (novel)
1949 His Human Majesty (novel)
1951 The Smoking Mountain: Stories of Germany During the Occupation
1955 The Seagull on the Step
1960 Generation without Farewell (novel)
1962 Breaking the Silence: Why a Mother Tells Her Son about the Nazi Era
1962 Collected Poems
1966 Being Geniuses Together (memoirs)
1966 Nothing Ever Breaks Except the Heart (novel)
1966 Pinky, the Cat Who Liked to Sleep (children’s)
1968 The Lost Dogs of Phnom Pehn (poetry)
1968 Pinky in Persia (children’s)
1970 The Long Walk at San Francisco State and Other Essays
1970 Testament for My Students and Other Poems
1975 A Poem for February First (poetry)
1975 The Underground Woman (novel)
1980 Fifty Stories
1985 This Is Not a Letter and Other Poems
1985 Words That Must Somehow Be Said
1988 Life Being the Best and Other Stories
1991 Collected Poems of Kay Boyle
1993 Winter Night (novel)
2001 Process (novel)
2015 Kay Boyle : A Twentieth-Century Life in Letters