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At Columbia he was president of the Philolexian Society.
In 1945 he transferred to Harvard University for graduate study in Far Eastern languages. Studied psychology, literature and philosophy at the University of South Florida.
In 1937 fought in the Spanish Civil War, one of two Americans chosen to lead guerrilla warfare behind Franco's lines. Several of his pieces of writing published in the New Masses.
During World War II he trained as an OSS member in Washington, but lost a hand in a grenade accident while instructing new recruits. Toward the end of his life he was poet James Schuyler's lover, and features in the latter's poem "Dining Out with Doug and Frank" as "A dark Finn who looked not unlike a butch version of Valentino." Died of leukemia and is buried in Long Island National Cemetery.
Educated at Oxford, and became leading figure in left-wing literary movement of 1930s. Younger brother of jazz record producer George Avakian and colleague of Kerouac's at Horace Mann School, 1939-40, where they jointly reviewed jazz records for the school magazine.