Wouk, Herman

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WOUK, HERMAN (1915– ), U.S. novelist and playwright. The son of Russian immigrants, Wouk was born in New York City. For six years he worked as a radio writer and, when the United States entered World War ii, joined the Navy as a line officer, serving in the Pacific for four years. Wouk's wartime experiences gave him the material and background for his best seller The Caine Mutiny (1951). It sold 3,000,000 copies, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, was turned into a successful Broadway play by the author (The Caine Mutiny Court Martial, 1954), and was later made into a motion picture. Wouk's other novels include Aurora Dawn (1947), a satire on the advertising business; The City Boy (1948); Marjorie Morning-star (1955), the story of a stage-struck Jewish girl; Youngblood Hawke (1962), about the tribulations of a successful writer; and Don't Stop the Carnival (1965). A leading Orthodox layman, Wouk taught English at Yeshiva University. This Is My God (1959) was his best-selling affirmation of faith in traditional Judaism, reached after much self-examination and exposure to the non-religious influences of his college years and public life. Wouk's Winds of War, regarded as one of his best novels, was published in 1971. It led the New York Times bestseller list for 24 weeks. The sequel, War and Remembrance (1978), dealing with the Holocaust in the framework of the major battles of World War ii, also topped the New York Times bestseller list. His later works include the novel Inside, Outside (1985) which deals with Judaism in private life and in politics, and The Will to Live On: This Is Our Heritage (2000). He was vice president of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue and endowed several Jewish educational causes in the U.S. and Israel.


R. Gordis, in: Midstream, 6 no. 1 (1960), 82–90; S. Brown, in: Commentary, 13 (1952), 595–9; E. Feldman, in: Tradition, 2 (1959), 333–6; S.J. Kunitz, Twentieth Century Authors, first suppl. (1955), s.v.; Current Biography Yearbook 1952 (1953), 649–50. add. bibliography: L. Mazzeno, Herman Wouk (1994).

[Joseph Mersand]