Leon Uris: Life of a Best Seller

By Ira B. Nadel | Go to book overview
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Everybody killed the Jews.


WHAT TO DO NEXT? That was the question Uris faced after the acclaim, attention, and money generated by Exodus. He was a rich, recognized writer. But what would follow? In part, the question answered itself. Writing the Warsaw Ghetto section of Exodus (Book 1, Chapters 22 and 23) had troubled him, as had the interviews he conducted in Israel with ghetto survivors. He wanted to memorialize their courage in a work that would continue his theme of the fighting Jew. He wanted to show that in even defeat they had triumphed, and in death they had survived. He also wanted to return to Israel to acknowledge his role as its literary spokesperson and, at the same time, to use the trip to fashion another book about the country, this time in photographs. To help him, he enlisted the Greek photographer, Dimitrios Harissiadis.

But first, there were appearances to make. On 19 September 1959, Uris was onstage with Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol at the Sherman Hotel in Chicago.1 His status as a voice of North America Jewry was immense, and the National Economic Conference for Israel was not going to pass up the chance to have him on the dais with the leading Israeli political figures. Uris, a willing supporter, became a frequent speaker at Jewish organizations throughout the continent, and many awards followed.2

Next month he was back at high school, receiving John Bartram High’s Outstanding Alumnus award (26 October 1959). This was ironic, since he had left school before graduating in order to join the marines in January 1942. The report in the Bartram High paper did note that he received a war diploma from the high school, but failed to record that it was more honorary than authentic. Nevertheless, he impressed the students with his oft-repeated quip that, fortunately, “English and writing have absolutely nothing in common.”3

In response to the immense popularity of Exodus, other writers came forward


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