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Series II: Writings, 1940-1999
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in five series.
The Herman Wouk Papers span the early portion of Wouk's life, although there is some scant correspondence from the late 1990s. The bulk of the records concern his many writings in the form of articles, books, short stories, plays, and poetry. The second largest series consists of correspondence from admiring fans, colleagues, publishing houses, and family members. In addition, there are personal items, printed material, photographs, and a small amount of audiovisual material. Records documenting Herman Wouk's professional output after the 1950s are located at the Library of Congress.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection is located on-site.
Portions of this collection are restricted until 2035. Please see the container list for details. In addition, boxes 6-12, 39-46, and 50-52 are entirely closed.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Herman Wouk papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Selected Related Material at other Repositories
The Papers of Victor Wouk, 1934-2004
Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Source of acquisition--Wouk, Herman. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1955. Accession number--M-56-01-24.
Method of acquisition--Parts of the collection were a purchase from Ira Thompson.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Processed Lea Osborne 2007.
Cataloged Lynn A. Grove 09/--/1989.
2008-12-02 File created.
2009-01-13 xml document instance created by Patrick Lawlor
2009-04-24 Edited by Lea Osborne
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Herman Wouk, perhaps best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Caine Mutiny, is a prolific author and enthusiastic supporter of Jewish culture. Wouk was born in the Bronx on May 27, 1915 to Abraham Isaac and Esther (neé Levine) Wouk, Russian Jewish immigrants. Wouk attended Townsend Harris Hall and continued his education at Columbia University, where he graduated with a B.A. with general honors in 1934. His interest in writing expanded during his collegiate years and he took advantage of the literary opportunities afforded on campus. He wrote for the Spectator all four years as well as the campus humor magazine, The Jester, becoming editor-in-chief his senior year. Wouk also made a name for himself from his popular variety shows, such as the 1932 one co-written with Arnold Auerbach entitled How Revolting.
After graduation, Herman Wouk continued to employ his comedic skills and was a staff writer for comedian Fred Allen. However, with the onset of World War II, Wouk traveled to Washington D.C. in order to use his talent to support the war effort. He wrote promotional radio scripts for the United States Treasury Department in 1941 to entice Americans to purchase more war bonds. Wouk also began to compose other radio plays featuring soldiers and military themes. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Herman Wouk joined the United States Navy where he served on a destroyer minesweeper called the U.S.S. Zane in the Pacific. Wouk's free time was spent writing within a broad spectrum of genres. He penned poems praising the work of the faceless individuals involved in the war, radio and play scripts, and the beginnings of his novel, Aurora Dawn, published in 1946 after he was discharged. While in the Navy, Wouk married Betty Sarah Brown on December 9, 1945. They had three sons, the first of whom died in childhood.
Herman Wouk continued to produce a stream of books, articles, essays, and plays. Two years after his first novel, Wouk's second The City Boy was published. This was followed by The Caine Mutiny, a book partially culled from Wouk's war experience and which became his first number one bestseller. The accolades did not stop and The Caine Mutiny won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952. Other titles followed, Marjorie Morningstar (1955), Youngblood Hawke (1962), Don't Stop the Carnival (1965), The Winds of War (1971), War and Remembrance (1978), Inside, Outside (1985), The Hope (1993), and The Glory (1994). Wouk has also written two studies on the history and the culture of Judaism, This Is My God (1959) and The Will to Live On (2000).
The life of The Caine Mutiny continued to expand for in 1954, Wouk reworked the text into a play, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. This production toured throughout the United States and spawned further iterations, including a televised production, a film, and a recent Broadway revival. Other books that had extended public lives were The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. Both of these novels became successful television miniseries in the 1980s.
Writing is not all that defines Herman Wouk. He is strongly committed to promoting and supporting Judaism. Wouk spent several years in the late 1950s as a visiting professor at Yeshiva University. He and his wife Betty Sarah traveled to Israel in 1955 where Wouk gave lectures, attended a performance of The Caine Mutiny, and participated in cultural and religious ceremonies. His visit was widely covered in the press. Additionally, in the 1970s Herman Wouk endowed Beit Ephraim, a Jewish communal residence located at his alma mater, Columbia University. He continued to serve on its advisory board and, in 2002, received a Gershom Mendes Seixas Award, for outstanding contribution to Jewish life at Columbia. Herman Wouk is still writing, having published his latest novel, A Hole in Texas, in 2004. He lives with his wife in California.