Remembering Leon Uris
Fischel, Jack, Midstream
It may well be the case that much of the public learns more about the past from historical fiction and film than in the classroom. This may be the case in regard to the generation that witnessed the birth of Israel. Many of them learned more from the novels of Leon Uris than from the many scholarly tomes on the subject. Before his death in 2003, Leon Uris had authored 13 novels, two movie scripts (The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, 1957, and The Angry Hills, 1959), and a photographic history of Jerusalem (Jerusalem: Song of Songs, 1981), and on Ireland. But of all of his fiction, his most influential book was Exodus (1958), his best-selling account of the events that preceded and led to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. An indefatigable researcher, Uris prided himself on his extensive research for the novel, which included interviews with survivors of the Holocaust, who arrived in Palestine prior to 1948.
Although not considered by critics among the top tier of American-Jewish writers, such as Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Bernard Malamud, Uris, nevertheless, has received a revered place, along with Herman Wouk, amid the best known writers of fiction in regard to contemporary Jewish history. Exodus was not only among the most widely read novels of its time, but did more to instill a positive image of Israel in the mind of the American public than any work of history or fiction past or present. Indeed, when Doubleday published Exodus, David Ben-Gurion asserted, "As a piece of propaganda, it's the greatest thing ever written about Israel." As Stephen J. Whitfield has noted, "There was no precedent--before or after--for an American novelist to produce a Zionist epic that would create a publishing sensation." (Necrology, the Jewish Quarterly Review, 2004).
Leon Marcus Uris was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1924 to Wolf William Uris, a shopkeeper, and Anna Blumberg. Both parents were Jews of Russian and Polish origin. His father, an immigrant from Poland spent a year in Palestine after World War I and derived his surname from …
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Publication information: Article title: Remembering Leon Uris. Contributors: Fischel, Jack - Author. Magazine title: Midstream. Volume: 56. Issue: 2 Publication date: Spring 2010. Page number: 35+. © 2009 Theodor Herzl Foundation. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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