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Biography Herman Wouk

2008 Lifetime Achievement Award for the Writing of Fiction

Herman Wouk was born in 1915 and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., by Russian Jewish immigrant parents. He graduated from Columbia University in 1934 at the age of 20, soon thereafter was writing radio scripts and by 1936 was working for Fred Allen. Wouk’s first publication was the short play “The Man in the Trench Coat” (1941), followed by “Aurora Dawn” (1947).

He won the Pulitzer Prize for one of his most popular works, “The Caine Mutiny” (1951), which was made into a play starring Henry Fonda and a film starring Humphrey Bogart, with each actor playing the role of the erratic Captain Queeg. The novel draws on Wouk’s experiences in the Navy during World War II.

“Herman Wouk’s work epitomizes the historical novel and its ability to transcend its time and place to achieve universality in character and themes,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “Herman is a longtime supporter of the Library who has honored us with his presence on many occasions, and he was among the first group of recipients, during our bicentennial in 2000, of our Living Legend Award.”

Wouk’s epic novels about World War II and the Holocaust, “The Winds of War” (1971) and “War and Remembrance” (1978), were made into award-winning television miniseries in 1983 and 1989. Wouk’s novels are known for their richly detailed stories and historical accuracy, the result of extensive research, much of it conducted at the Library of Congress.

Selected Works at the Library of Congress