Remembering Herman Wouk, 1915-2019

By May 25, 2019Authors, News

Every year at this time, the entire For Reading Addicts team remarks at how old Herman Wouk is. But this year when checking birthdays we were faced with the sad news that Wouk passed away on May 17th, just before his 104 birthday.

Born in the Bronx to Russian Jewish descendants on 27th May 1915, Bronx grew up as part of a struggling family in poverty. After his childhood, Wouk earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the age of 19 from Columbia University and went on to serve as the editor of the university’s humor magazine, The Columbia Jester and thereafter would become a radio dramatist.

After serving in the US Navy Reserves until 1946, Herman Wouk would come to writing, inspired it’s said after reading Don Quixote on board ship. He would bring the world his own brand of impeccable researched historical fiction. It was a characteristic that run through his most notable works covering subjects from the second world war (The Winds of War and War and Remembrance) to the creation of Israel (The Hope and The Glory), and the every day life of the Jewish middle classes (Marjorie Morningstar).

Wouk also drew on his own experiences, such as City Boy, an early novel about growing up in New York and The Caine Mutiny, in which he drew on his experiences as a US Navy radio operator.

Despite his success, literary critics considered him to be a middlebrow writer and professional reviewers were not kind. Despite this, many of his works went on to be adapted for film, and he continued writing his whole life. When he died he was working on his latest novel, about the life of a 100-year-old writer.

Sadly for all his bestseller, Wouk never acquired the reputation he deserved, even in Jewish circles, even his passing last week came and went with very little fanfare. But we at For Reading Addicts thinks he deserves a little recognition for his 103 years, and we hope that for those of you who haven’t heard of Herman Wouk, this obituary may serve as inspiration to pick up one of his books.

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