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August 18, 2008 (REVISED August 19, 2008)
Distinguished Writer Herman Wouk To Receive Award for Lifetime Achievement from Library of Congress
First Award for Lifetime Achievement in Writing to Be Given During Sept. 10 Ceremony
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington will present Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Herman Wouk with the first Library of Congress Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction. The award recognizes Wouk’s extraordinary contributions to American letters and his dedication to, as he has said, "the enduring power of the novel."
The award will be presented on Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 5 p.m. in the Thomas Jefferson Building, Coolidge Auditorium, First Street and Independence Ave. S.E. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. The program will include readings by Wouk and other distinguished guests.
"Herman Wouk’s work epitomizes the historical novel and its ability to transcend its time and place to achieve universality in character and themes," Billington said. "Herman is a longtime supporter of the Library who has honored us with his presence on many occasions, and he was among the first group of recipients, during our bicentennial in 2000, of our Living Legend Award."
Wouk has published 12 widely acclaimed novels as well as plays and nonfiction. Many do not know that he also wrote comedy, early in his career, for Fred Allen’s radio show from 1936 to 1941. Little, Brown is Wouk’s publisher.
"The Library of Congress holds a unique place in America—and for me personally—as a collector and preserver of our nation’s great intellectual and creative heritage, so it is a special honor for me to receive this award," said Wouk. "Thank you for recognizing my life’s work."
Wouk is donating his literary diaries, remaining manuscripts and correspondence to the Library, where they will be made available in the Manuscript Division Reading Room, after processing. The Library already holds the manuscripts of five Wouk novels, including "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance."
The event is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. In 1999 the center sponsored the publication of "The Historical Novel: A Celebration of the Achievements of Herman Wouk," which is based on discussions about the nature of historical fiction and tributes to Herman Wouk that took place at the Library of Congress in 1995, when he donated his book manuscripts.
The Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, is the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s Web site www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at www.myLOC.gov.
The Center for the Book was created in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books and reading. For information about its program, publications and national reading-promotion networks, visit www.loc.gov/cfbook/.
Herman Wouk was born in 1915 and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., by Russian Jewish immigrant parents. He graduated from Columbia University in 1934 at the age of 20, soon thereafter was writing radio scripts and by 1936 was working for Fred Allen. Wouk’s first publication was the short play "The Man in the Trench Coat" (1941), followed by "Aurora Dawn" (1947). He won the Pulitzer Prize for one of his most popular works, "The Caine Mutiny" (1951), which was made into a play starring Henry Fonda and a film starring Humphrey Bogart, with each actor playing the role of the erratic Captain Queeg. The novel draws on Wouk’s experiences in the Navy during World War II.
Wouk’s epic novels about World War II and the Holocaust, "The Winds of War" (1971) and "War and Remembrance" (1978), were made into award-winning television miniseries in 1983 and 1989. Wouk’s novels are known for their richly detailed stories and historical accuracy, the result of extensive research, much of it at the Library of Congress.
For the subject of his most recent novel, "A Hole in Texas" (2004), Wouk turned to the aborted Superconducting Super Collider project, which left 14 miles of tunneling behind in the Dallas-Fort Worth area when the particle-accelerator project was canceled in 1993. A new book is scheduled for publication in 2009.
The new Library of Congress Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction joins other Library awards that recognize lifetime achievement. The John W. Kluge Prize in Human Sciences rewards lifetime achievement in the study of humanity with focus on disciplines such as history, philosophy, politics, anthropology, sociology, religion, criticism in the arts and humanities, and linguistics. The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song celebrates the work of an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding.
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