Herman Wouk has ranged in his novels from the mighty narrative of The Caine Mutiny and the warm, intimate humor of Marjorie Morningstar to the global panorama of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. All these powers merge in this major new work of nonfiction, The Will to Live On, an illuminating account of the worldwide revolution that has been sweeping over Jewry, set against a swiftly reviewed background of history, tradition, and sacred literature.
Forty years ago, in his modern classic This Is My God, Herman Wouk stated the case for his religious beliefs and conduct. His aim in that work and in The Will to Live On has been to break through the crust of prejudice, to reawaken clearheaded thought about the magnificent Jewish patrimony, and to convey a message of hope for Jewish survival.
Although the Torah and the Talmud are timeless, the twentieth century has brought earthquake shocks to the Jews: the apocalyptic experience of the Holocaust, the reborn Jewish state, the precarious American diaspora, and deepening religious schisms. After a lifetime of study, Herman Wouk examines the changes affecting the Jewish world, especially the troubled wonder of Israel, and the remarkable, though dwindling, American Jewry. The book is peppered with wonderful stories of the author's encounters with such luminaries as Ben Gurion, Isidor Rabi, Yitzhak Rabin, Saul Bellow, and Richard Feynan.
Learned in general culture, warmly tolerant of other beliefs, this noted author expresses his own other beliefs, this noted author expresses his own faith with a passion that gives the book its fire and does so in the clear, engaging style that--as in all Wouk's fiction--makes the reader want to know what the next page will bring.
In the 1950s, sensing a drifting of Jews away from their tradition, novelist Wouk (The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, etc.), an observant Jew, wrote This Is My God, a classic primer on Jewish belief and practices, to draw some of the curious back. Nearly half a century later, with the American Jewish community concerned with high rates of intermarriage, Wouk brings out this companion volume, a whirlwind tour of Jewish history and sacred texts. It is, he writes, his "view that any hope for our long future in a massive return to our sources, in faith, in literature, and in history." Despite its brevity, the text succeeds in conveying the large arc of 2,500 years of Jewish history and the grandeur of the Hebrew Bible and prophets, the "exalted challenge" of studying the Talmud and the complex questions of identity facing Jews today, whether in Israel or in the Diaspora. He writes with great love of his tradition and with a becoming modesty about his own impressive scholarship. He draws on incidents from his life to illustrate various points; for instance, regarding the inevitable conflict in the modern mind between rationalism and religion, he describes a meeting between two of his mentors: the philosopher Irwin Edman of Columbia University and Wouk's grandfather, an unworldly Talmudic scholar. Wouk discusses all these issues clearly without oversimplifying them; he confronts head on, for example, the dilemmas facing Zionism in an age when Israel is a military power and a mature, internally divided country. This fine volume deserves to become a classic alongside its predecessor.