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Uris, Leon (Marcus)

URIS, Leon (Marcus)

Nationality: American. Born: Baltimore, Maryland, 3 August 1924. Education: Baltimore public schools. Military Service: United States Marine Corps, 1942-45: served in the Pacific at Guadalcanal and Tarawa. Family: Married 1) Betty Katherine Beck in 1945 (divorced 1968), one daughter and two sons; 2) Margery Edwards in 1968 (died 1969); 3) Jill Peabody in 1970, one daughter; one other child. Career: Circulation district manager, San Francisco Call-Bulletin.Awards: Daroff Memorial award and National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, both in 1959; California Literature Silver Medal award, 1962, for Mila 18, and Gold Medal award, 1965, for Armageddon; Irish/American Society of New York John F. Kennedy medal, 1977; Eire Society of Boston gold medal, 1978; State of Israel Jobotinsky medal, 1980; Concord Academy Hall fellowship (with wife, Jill Uris), 1980; Hebrew University of Jerusalem Scopus award, 1981. Honorary doctorates: University of Colorado, 1976; Santa Clara University, 1977; Wittenberg University, 1980; Lincoln College, 1985. Address: c/o Doubleday & Co. Inc., 666 5th Avenue, New York, New York 10103, U.S.A.

Publications

Novels

Battle Cry. 1953.

The Angry Hills. 1955.

Exodus. 1958.

Mila 18. 1961.

Armageddon: A Novel of Berlin. 1964.

Topaz. 1967.

QB VII. 1970.

Trinity. 1976.

The Haj. 1984.

Mitla Pass. 1988.

Redemption (sequel to Trinity ). 1995.

A God in Ruins: A Novel. 1999.

Plays

Ari, adaptation of his Exodus, music by Walt Smith (produced New York, 1971).

Screenplays:

Battle Cry, 1954; Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, 1957.

Other

Exodus Revisited, with Dimitrios Harissiadis (photo essay). 1959; as In the Steps of Exodus, 1962.

The Third Temple (essay). Published with William Steven-son's Strike Zion, 1967.

Ireland: A Terrible Beauty: The Story of Ireland Today, with Jill Uris (photo essay). 1975.

Jerusalem, Song of Songs, with Jill Uris (photo essay). 1981.

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Film Adaptations:

Battle Cry, 1954; Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, 1957; The Angry Hills, 1959; Exodus, 1960; Topaz, 1969; QB VII (television), 1974.

Critical Studies:

Exodus, A Distortion of Truth by Aziz S. Sahwell, 1960; "Trinity: The Formulas of History" by Wayne Hall, in Eire-Ireland, 13(4), 1978, pp. 137-44; "Semi-Aesthetic Detachment: The Fusing of Fictional and External Worlds in the Situational Literature of Leon Uris" by Sharon D. Downey and Richard A. Kallan, in Communication Monographs, 49(3), September 1982, pp. 192-204; "Voicing the Arab: Multivocality and Ideology in Leon Uris' The Haj " by Elise Salem Manganaro, in MELUS, 15(4), Winter 1988, pp. 3-13; Leon Uris: A Critical Companion by Kathleen Shine Cain, 1998; "'Rambowitz' Versus the 'Schlemiel' in Leon Uris' Exodus " by Henry Gonshak, in Journal of American Culture, 22(1), Spring 1999, pp. 9-16.

* * *

The Holocaust and World War II are central concerns of most of the works of Leon Uris. His first novel, Battle Cry (1953), was based largely on his own experiences in the U.S. Marine Corps in the Pacific. His second novel, The Angry Hills (1955), was largely based on the experiences of his uncle, who fought in the Greek resistance against the Nazis. Working on The Angry Hills seems to have led to his interest in the European theater during the war and consequently to his best known work, Exodus (1958). For Uris the persecution of the Jews in Europe, and especially the Holocaust, led directly to the founding of Israel. As part of his story of the beginning of the Jewish state, he tells about the survival of several of his central characters in Nazi-occupied Europe and consequently depicts some of the more horrible aspects of the Holocaust. He also treats the work of some of his other central characters, in particular his protagonist, Ari Ben Canaan, in fighting for the British against the Nazis. He describes the aftermath of the Holocaust, with Jews wandering throughout Europe, unwanted by any country but kept out of Israel by the British so that they had to be smuggled into the Middle East by the very people who had fought for the British during the war. And he describes the fighting, both diplomatic and actual, that led to the establishment of the State of Israel.

Another work in which the Holocaust is central is Mila 18 (1961), about the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, an event Uris treats briefly in Exodus. In addition, QB VII (1970) focuses on the American author Abe Cady, a fictitious character based in part on Uris himself, who writes a book called The Holocaust about a Polish Roman Catholic surgeon, Adam Kelno, who was a prisoner in the fictitious Jadwiga Concentration Camp, where many of Cady's relatives were murdered. Cady accuses Kelno of collaborating with the Nazis by performing unnecessary experimental surgery on Jews in the camp. The surgeon sues Cady for libel in the Court of Queen's Bench in London. The novel deals with both the Holocaust and its aftermath, including continuing anti-Semitism in Poland and the possibility that "we are wrecking our world beyond our ability to save ourselves." As the trial ends, the Six-Day War is being fought. The last section of the novel includes an Associated Press dispatch from Tel Aviv dated June 6, 1967, reporting on the "light" casualties the Israeli Defense Ministry announced for that day, including the death of "Sergen (Captain) Ben Cady, son of the well-known author."

Uris's works tend to be based on fact. He researches carefully the backgrounds of the historic episodes he treats. In fact, he tends to be so accurate on historic facts that some reviewers have labeled certain of his works nonfiction novels.

Central to many of Uris's works lies the Jewish superman, a genuine larger-than-life hero whose physical size, strength, and extreme intelligence enable him to win victories that others could not. Ari Ben Canaan of Exodus and Andrei Androfski of Mila 18 are examples of this kind of hero. So is Abe Cady of QB VII, a former college and semiprofessional baseball player, flyer in World War II, novelist, and journalist. After the war he travels throughout Europe, visiting, among other places, the Jadwiga Concentration Camp. Out of that visit his book on the Holocaust grows. When a Jewish university in the United States contacts Cady to participate in a fund-raiser to support the school's academic work, he responds that he will participate only if the money he raises can be used to create a football team composed of "big buck Jews" who could severely beat Notre Dame and other non-Jewish schools. In this Jew, who combines both physical and intellectual superiority, Uris sees the hope of never experiencing another Holocaust. Still, his portraits of Jews are not as unbalanced as they at first might seem. In Mila 18, for example, he also treats Jewish smugglers, collaborators, members of the Judenrat, or Jewish Council, and Jewish police. His ultimate goal seems to be to depict Jews as human beings subject to the same drives, weaknesses, and strengths as other human beings.

—Richard Tuerk

See the essay on Mila 18.

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