Herman Wouk

American writer (1915-2019)

Herman Wouk (May 27, 1915 – May 17, 2019) was an American novelist who wrote The Caine Mutiny (for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1952), The Winds of War and War and Remembrance.

Herman Wouk in 2010


  • I felt there’s a wealth in Jewish tradition, a great inheritance. I’d be a jerk not to take advantage of it.
    • On his return to Orthodox Judaism.
    • Time (September 5, 1955).
  • The imaginative artist willy-nilly influences his time. If he understands his responsibility and acts on it—taking the art seriously always, himself never quite—he can make a contribution equal to, if different from, that of the scientist, the politician, and the jurist. The anarchic artist so much in vogue now—asserting with vehemence and violence that he writes only for himself, grubbing in the worst seams of life—can do damage. But he can also be so useful in breaking up obsolete molds, exposing shams, and crying out the truth, that the broadest freedom of art seems to me necessary to a country worth living in.
    • “An Exclusive Interview with Herman Wouk,” Kirk Polking, Writer’s Digest (September 1966).
  • I regard the writing of humor as a supreme artistic challenge.
    • Book-of-the-Month Club News (May 1985).
  • You can know almost anything about G-d, provided you put the right questions to Him. You have to learn how to put the questions, and they have to be accurate and airtight. [...] [M]y father, for instance, doesn't know that two atoms of hydrogen bind with one atom of oxygen to form a water molecule. Yet it's G-d's truth, and an important one. You don't know it [...] you believe it because you read it somewhere, or a teacher told you. I know it. I've put the question, and He answered, straight out. G-d will answer a high school boy. He asks only that you use common sense, pay very close attention to Him, not be sloppy, and count and measure correctly. G-d ignores sloppy questions. Sloppiness is the opposite of G-dliness. G-d is exact. He is marvelously, purely exact. Theology is all slop. Moses gave the best answers you could get, three thousand years ago, and he was no theologian.
    • Inside, Outside, p. 567 of the hardcover edition. The quote is fictional physicist Mark Herz answering the protagonist's question "What can you know about G-d? You either believe or you don't."
  • We are in the black theater of nonexistence. In an eye blink the curtain is up, the stage ablaze, for the vast drama of ourselves.
  • This is an excellent martini—sort of tastes like it isn’t there at all, just a cold cloud.
    • The Winds of War teleplay, for the ABC miniseries based on the novel (September 10, 1986)).
  • There is a mystery about the Jews … and within this mystery lies the reason for the folk pride of the house of Abraham. This pride exists despite the disabilities that come from many centuries of ostracism.
  • Deep in the heart of both critical Christian and alienated Jew, there is … a feeling, not even a feeling, a shadow of a notion, nothing more substantial than the pointless but compelling impulse to knock on wood when one talks of the health of children—something that says there is more to Jews than meets the eye.
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