Herman Wouk, Master of Historical Fiction on WWII, Died in 2019

Herman Wouk, a novelist who made the drama of WWII come alive through the narrative technique of one family’s experience saga, died in 2019 at the age of 103.

Washington Post: ” In a form that the author would echo in other novels, “The Winds of War” and its sequel, “War and Remembrance,” trace World War II through the experiences of one family. “The Winds of War” follows Navy officer Victor “Pug” Henry and his relatives from the German invasion of Poland to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, where its sequel begins and then proceeds to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

“The pair of books established Mr. Wouk’s legacy as a master of historical fiction, in which he blended the narrative power of fiction with great understanding and empathy for the human motivations behind wars and other historical events. The Economist magazine said “The Winds of War” was “as serious a contribution to the literature of our time as ‘War and Peace’ was to that of the nineteenth century.”

“Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said Mr. Wouk helped enliven history in ways that many academic tomes never could and prompted readers to examine the past through engaging fictional characters. “I think he’s been a seminal figure because he’s recrafted the historical novel for a modern audience and not for some niche market,” Billington told The Post.

The Post’s obituary ends with this quote from Wouk: “A historical novel, to have any chance of lasting, must meet the highest standards of academic history, and then the novelist has to discard 90 percent of the history in order to tell the story.”

Related:

  • “Wouk’s breathtaking narrative pace, skillful stage management and flair for wide-screen spectacle…” NYT obit. “On the question of his reputation, Mr. Wouk took a philosophical line. “In the long run justice is done,” he told Writer’s Digest in 1966. “In the short run geniuses, minor writers and mountebanks alike take their chance. Imaginative writing is a wonderful way of life, and no man who can live by it should ask for more.”

 

 

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