Taking Herman Wouk Seriously

The novelist Herman Wouk, who will turn one-hundred next week, is known for his best-selling renditions of World War II and of American Jewry. While critics have been less than kind about his artistry, David Frum argues that the novels contain important ideas—especially about the nature of war—that make them worth reading. On Wouk’s treatment of the Holocaust, Frum writes:

The Nazi Holocaust pervades [Wouk’s The Winds of War and its sequel, War and Remembrance], and lurks in the corners of The Caine Mutiny, too. Some of Wouk’s characters stumble into the Holocaust’s maw; others glimpse inside and are transformed forever. Adolf Eichmann makes a large and memorable appearance in War and Remembrance. Let it be noted that the supposedly middlebrow Wouk more shrewdly penetrated the Nazi murderer’s self-serving lies than the echt-highbrow Hannah Arendt. Wouk’s Eichmann is no banal bureaucrat, but a fanatical plunderer and murderer—just as the historical documents that have become available since the writing of Wouk’s novels have confirmed.

It’s really a striking thing how unexpressed a place the Holocaust occupied in the writing of American-Jewish novelists in the decades after the war: Heller, Bellow, Malamud, Doctorow. (Mordecai Richler too, to include a Canadian.) With Wouk, the Holocaust is always front of mind. In 2012, at ninety-seven, when he was asked by Vanity Fair which living person he most despised, he answered, “The Jewish writer who traduces his Jewishness.” (The runner-up, it would seem, is the U.S. military veteran who traduces the U.S. military.)

Read more at Atlantic

More about: Adolf Eichmann, American Jewish literature, Arts & Culture, Herman Wouk, Holocaust fiction

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus