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The Great Herman Wouk

What is so great about Herman Wouk? Find out at Menorah’s final Great Books, Great Movies event this Saturday at the Boulder JCC. The evening begins at 7 with a discussion of Herman Wouk’s career and life, followed by a screening of “The Caine Mutiny” at 8 pm.

The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book once hosted a conference commemorating the work of Herman Wouk. At the symposium, Robert Caro described the impact of reading Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Caine Mutiny” on the subway as a teenager. William Safire marveled that Wouk’s depiction of U.S.-Israeli relations during the early 1970s in his novel “The Glory” was so eerily accurate that Wouk had understood what most historians had not – not only events, but motivations. Andrew Delbanco, a Columbia professor, mentioned Wouk’s rendering of issues of urbanization and assimilation in his novel “Marjorie Morningstar.”

At the end, Wouk stood up and said that he was grateful for such commemoration, but also somewhat troubled to be at what felt like his retirement ceremony.

There is a spectral gold watch floating somewhere here in the air,” he said to laughter.

He was nearly 80 years old.

Today he is 95 and has just published “The Language that God Talks.” He has written two dozen books, including the massive, two-volume epic that encapsulated World War II, “Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance.” The heavily-researched effort took 13 years, but paid off in authenticity: Henry Kissinger referred to the novels as “the war itself.”

Wouk first fell in love with Jewish learning on the knee of his beloved grandfather, Mendel Leib Levin, who had arrived in America from Belarus a Hasidic rabbi who refused to learn English or participate in the chaos swirling around him. Wouk remains devoutly Jewish, keeps kosher and attends services in Palm Springs, where he lives with his wife of 66 years.

His faith has found expression in his writing, which straddles tradition and modernity with amazing grace. “The Caine Mutiny” is an excellent example of this, and of his moral courage as a writer. Join Menorah to find out why it’s a Jewish movie!

About Kathryn Bernheimer

Kathryn Bernheimer
Director of Menorah: Arts, Culture and Education at the Boulder JCC. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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