Uris, Leon

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URIS, LEON (1924–2003), U.S. novelist. Born in Baltimore, Uris joined the U.S. Marines at the age of 17 and participated in the campaigns on Guadalcanal and Tarawa Islands in the Pacific. On his return to the U.S., he worked for a San Francisco newspaper and then used his war experience in writing his first work, Battle Cry (1953), which was acclaimed as a major war novel. For another book, The Angry Hills (1955), Uris drew on the war diary of an uncle who was a member of the Palestine Brigade that fought in Greece. Two of his novels, Exodus (1958) and Mila 18 (1961), dealt exclusively with the momentous events of recent Jewish history. Uris' other works include Armageddon (1964), on the Berlin airlift; Topaz (1967), a novel about Soviet anti-nato espionage in France, with some savage satire against General De Gaulle; and qb vii (1970; made into a drama for television, 1974), about a libel suit brought by a doctor against an author who had written that the former had conducted medical experiments in a concentration camp during World War ii.

Exodus, one of the greatest fiction sellers in American history, depicts the establishment of the State of Israel. Before writing it, Uris read 300 books on Israel and the Middle East, traveled throughout Israel, and interviewed 1,200 people there. Mila 18 deals with the Jewish community in the Warsaw Ghetto and describes how the Jews finally revolted against the Nazis. Like Exodus, it was read by millions and enhanced Uris' reputation as a novelist, although both books were criticized for their awkward prose. Several of Uris' novels were made into motion pictures, the film version of Exodus by Otto Preminger being released in 1960. Uris also wrote a photo essay, Exodus Revisited (1960). Uris was also a screenwriter for Battle Cry (1955) and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).

He collaborated with his wife Jill, a photographer, in Ireland: A Terrible Beauty: The Story of Ireland Today (1975) and Jerusalem, Song of Songs (1981). His later works include Trinity (1976), Redemption (1995), and O'Hara's Choice (2003).


M.M. Hill and L.N. Williams, Auschwitz in England (1965). add. bibliography: K. Cain, Leon Uris: A Critical Companion (1998); Gale Literary Databases/Contemporary Authors Online, "Leon Uris" (2004).

[Harold U. Ribalow]