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Herman Wouk is best known for his novel The Caine Mutiny.
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Herman Wouk is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Jewish American novelist and author of The Caine Mutiny.
Herman Wouk was born on May 27, 1915 in the Bronx borough of New York City, the son of Abraham Isaac and Esther Levine Wouk, Jewish immigrants from Minsk, Russia (now Belarus). As a child, Wouk was frequently bullied on the rough streets of his neighborhood, but he found two safe refuges: his books and his home. When he was 13, his grandfather, Rabbi Mendel Leib Levin, arrived from Russia and took charge of Wouk's religious education. Herman Wouk once complained to his father about the amount of time he was expected to study the Talmud, a collection of rabbinic discussions, and his father replied, "I understand... but if I were on my deathbed, and I had breath to say one more thing to you, I would say 'Study the Talmud.'" Eventually Wouk took this advice to heart; Judaism would become integral to both his personal life and his career.
Herman Wouk went on to attend Columbia University, graduating in 1934 with a B.A. in comparative literature and philosophy. During his time at Columbia, he edited the college's humor magazine, the Jester, and wrote several variety shows. He immensely enjoyed working on comedic material. Upon graduation, he decided, "To hell with that noise [Judaism]. I'm going to be a funnyman." Wouk announced to his family that he wanted to be a comic writer. By 1936, he had been hired by comedian Fred Allen, who paid him $200 a week to write gags and sketches. Although the work was lucrative, Wouk came to find it unfulfilling. He missed the depth of his studies in Judaism.
Before long, World War II erupted in Europe and Asia. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Wouk enlisted in the United States Navy, where he quickly distinguished himself as a superior officer and writer. Wouk later recalled his time in the navy as "the greatest experience of my life... I had known two worlds, the wise guys of Broadway and the wise guys of Columbia — two small worlds that sometimes take themselves for the whole world. In the Navy, I found out more than I ever had about people and about the United States. I had always been a word boy, and suddenly I had to cope with the peculiar, marvelous world of the machine." Although newly fascinated by technology, Wouk did not abandon his love of words; off-duty, he started work on his first novel, Aurora Dawn. During this period, Wouk also met Betty Brown, who later converted to Judaism in order to marry him in 1946, and went by the name of Sarah Wouk. The couple had three sons: Abraham (who died young), Nathaniel and Isaac.
Herman Wouk's Aurora Dawn was published in 1947. It became a Book of the Month Club selection, introducing thousands of readers across the country to his writing. Wouk took this success as a sign that he should write full-time. He subsequently composed novels and plays, and even worked on the screenplay for the film Slattery's Hurricane.
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