The Library of Congress Lifetime Achievement Award for the Writing of Fiction was established in 2008 to honor a career dedicated to the literary arts. The award recognizes the enduring achievements of its recipient and his or her dedication to embodying the human spirit in the pages of fiction.
This award was first presented to Herman Wouk on Sept. 10, 2008, during a ceremony sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium. In making his presentation, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced that the award would hereafter be named for Herman Wouk. “Herman Wouk’s work epitomizes the historical novel and its ability to transcend its time and place to achieve universality in character and themes,” said Billington. “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.”
During the ceremony, Billington also announced that Wouk had donated 92 volumes of his personal journals dating from the 1930s to the present, the manuscripts of five recent books, correspondence, tapes, posters and photographs, making the Library of Congress the premier repository of Herman Wouk’s work. The Library already held the manuscripts to five Wouk novels, including “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance.”
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 conducted 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.