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Herman Wouk Biography

(1915– ), Aurora Dawn; or the True History of Andrew Reale

jewish war life fiction

American bestselling novelist and screenwriter, born in New York, brought up in the Bronx and educated at Columbia University; his father was a first generation Russian Jewish industrialist. After working in radio and as a gag writer for the comedian Fred Allen (193641), Wouk served with the US Naval Reserve on destroyer-minesweepers (19426). His first published novel, Aurora Dawn; or the True History of Andrew Reale (1947), is a satire on hucksterism in the radio industry. City Boy: The Adventures of Herbie Bookbinder and His Cousin, Cliff (1948) is a story of life in the Bronx in the 1920s. Wouk established himself as a bestselling writer with The Caine Mutiny (1951; Pulitzer Prize); subtitled ‘a Novel of World War II’, it is the story of a regular captain, Philip Queeg, who, after increasing mental instability, is relieved of his command during a typhoon by Willie Keith, a Princeton graduate, newly joined to the service. The subsequent court-martial, in which Keith is successfully defended by a Jewish lawyer, Lieutenant Barney Greenwald, was dramatized (The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, 1953); the novel was also successfully filmed (1952: starring Humphrey Bogart). Marjorie Morningstar (1955; filmed 1958), about a stunningly beautiful Jewish girl, was praised by one critic as a ‘modern Jewish Vanity Fair’, while others applied the term ‘soap opera’ (a recurrent slur on Wouk's fiction). Youngblood Hawke (1961; filmed 1964) was based on the life of Thomas Wolfe. Wouk's love of large, saga-like novels, his realistic narrative technique, and his adherence to old-fashioned moral categories led one commentator to call Wouk ‘the only living nineteenth-century novelist’. The Winds of War (1971), his Tolstoyan narrative of the Second World War, and its sequel, War and Remembrance (1978), were given vast popular currency by the TV mini-series of 1983 and 1989. His subsequent work, Inside, Outside (1985, a story of being Jewish in America), The Hope (1993) and The Glory (1994), fictional accounts of the epic history of post-1947 Israel, reveal his twin interests in using fiction to explore his own personal American inheritance, and the vast geo-political events of the twentieth century. Among his non-fiction works is This Is My God: The Jewish Way of Life (1959).

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