Herman Wouk Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207125-Wouk.jpg Herman Wouk Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Herman Wouk (wohk) is one of the few twentieth century American novelists who creates fiction that is both enjoyable entertainment and serious literature. He was born to Abraham Isaac and Esther Levine Wouk, both Russian Jewish immigrants. His father started his life in the United States as a poor laborer and gradually built a successful chain of laundries. Wouk has incorporated many specific experiences of his youth, such as living in a family constantly beset by business worries, into several of his novels. His grandfather, an Orthodox rabbi, instilled in him a lifelong devotion to Judaism. After attending Townsend Harris Hall in the Bronx from 1927 to 1930, Wouk at the age of nineteen graduated with honors from Columbia University, where he majored in comparative literature and philosophy. While in college he was editor of the college humor magazine, Columbia Jester, and wrote two of the popular annual variety shows. The philosopher Irwin Edman was Wouk’s mentor at Columbia; his conservative humanist outlook was a major influence on Wouk’s thinking.

In 1935 Wouk took his first professional position, as a radio comedy writer. In 1941 he began writing scripts to promote the sale of United States war bonds, but his radio career ended when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942. In 1943, while serving as deck officer aboard a destroyer/minesweeper, Wouk began writing his first novel, Aurora Dawn, which he completed in May, 1946. Earlier, in December, 1945, he was married to Betty Sarah Brown, who converted to Judaism. The Wouks had three children, Abraham Isaac (who died in 1951 at the age of five), Nathaniel, and Joseph.

Aurora Dawn is a satirical look at the business of radio and advertising, written in the stylized manner of eighteenth century novels such as Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749). It was chosen as a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, but Wouk was more widely acknowledged after the appearance of his...

(The entire section is 808 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Herman Wouk was born in New York City on May 27, 1915, the son of Abraham Isaac and Esther (Levine) Wouk. Wouk’s father, an industrialist in the power laundry field, started out as an immigrant laundry worker earning three dollars a week. Wouk was educated at Townsend Harris Hall and at Columbia University, where he graduated with honors in 1934. While at Columbia, he studied philosophy and comparative literature and was editor of the Columbia Jester. From 1934 to 1935 he worked as a gag writer for radio comedians, and from 1936 to 1941, he was a scriptwriter for Fred Allen. In 1941, Wouk moved to Washington, D.C., following his appointment to the U.S. Treasury Department as a dollar-a-year man; his job was to write and produce radio shows to sell war bonds.

Wouk left this work to join the Navy. After completing Officer Candidate School, he was commissioned an ensign and assigned to mine sweeper duty in the Pacific fleet. He served in the Navy from 1942 to 1945, first aboard the USS Zane and then aboard the destroyer-minesweeper USS Southard. Eventually, he was promoted to the position of executive officer of the Southard. He was decorated with four campaign stars during the war, and received a unit citation as well. When Wouk was processed out of the Navy in 1945, he held the rank of lieutenant. Wouk married Betty Sarah Brown in December, 1945. They had three sons, Abraham Isaac (who died before reaching his fifth birthday), Nathaniel, and Joseph.

Wouk began his career as a serious writer while he was in the Navy; before his release from the service, he had completed a good portion of his first novel. That novel, Aurora Dawn, was published by Simon and Schuster in 1947....

(The entire section is 711 words.)


(Novels for Students)

Wouk was born into a wealthy family on May 27, 1915, in New York City. He graduated from Columbia University in 1934. His first job was...

(The entire section is 378 words.)