This is the true story of Leo Litwak, an award-winning novelist and former World War II combat medic. It's the story of real people in war--friends and thieves, dreamers and killers, jokers and heroes--as well as the personal account of a young American plucked from a sheltered and comfortable life and sent to a foreign land to save the men fighting to save th...
This is the true story of Leo Litwak, an award-winning novelist and former World War II combat medic. It's the story of real people in war--friends and thieves, dreamers and killers, jokers and heroes--as well as the personal account of a young American plucked from a sheltered and comfortable life and sent to a foreign land to save the men fighting to save the world.
From Publishers Weekly
Leo Litwak's lightly fictionalized memoir of combat puts the lie to the current sentimentalization of the "Greatest Generation." Litwak's WWII was, like all wars, an exercise in mass homicide, presided over by a mostly unseen officer class and carried out by young men trained to erase the boundary between violence and its sublimation a boundary that is, at other times, the very foundation of civilization. The fictional Litwak, the son of a disaffected Jewish union organizer in Michigan, is drafted into the army in 1943. His upbringing naturally leads to clashes with his fellow recruits in the South Carolina camp where he receives training to become a medic. But by late fall, 1944, when his company is shipped to Europe, Litwak has made a few good friends. He idolizes Sergeant Lucca, who literally dies on top of Leo, eviscerated by a rocket fragment. A fellow soldier, Maurice Sully, views the war as an extension of his motto, "I go to the border, say `Fuck you' to no-trespassing signs." He loots, connives, entertains and ends up being drafted into an army musical produced by Special Services. Another soldier, Roy Jones, a Louisiana boy, kills German prisoners to exact personal vengeance. Roy's opponent in the platoon is Frank Jones, an older man who served on the left side in the Spanish Civil War. The platoon fights through Belgium and into Germany, and ends up in Grossdorf, a village in territory ceded to East Germany after the war, where they wait for the Red Army's arrival. Litwak's tough-minded narrative portrays war's peculiar customs with compelling honesty and wry humor. Agent, Ellen Levine. Author tour.
Litwak, who served as a medic in World War II, is a novelist, and he currently teaches English literature at San Francisco State University. He is a Jew who personally witnessed the results of Nazi brutality toward Jews, yet he is also a man whose basic decency and sensitivity to the human condition will not allow him to succumb to hatred. In this dramatized version of his wartime service in Europe, Litwak has altered the names of some people and places, and some of the events described are actually composites of several experiences. Nevertheless, this brutal and yet frequently uplifting saga of war has the ring of authenticity. There are no "good guys" or "bad guys" here, although the presence of both good and evil is constant. Instead, we witness ordinary men, most of them quite young, striving to survive a conflict that few of them understand. This is a disturbing, revealing, and very important glimpse of warfare at the most elementary level.
From the Inside Flap
He was a college boy thrilled by the prospect of fighting what they were calling a good war. There were already eleven million people in the fight in the spring of 1943 when his troop train pulled out of the Detroit station. His parents watched uneasily from the platform knowing there was much to be afraid of, much more that her knew. He turned back and waved. I'll be fine, don't worry, he said. At last he had found a way to be useful, he thought. He would be a warrior.
Against his will they made him a medic. Instead of a rifle, they gave him bandages and gauze, sulfa powder and morphine. They trained him to save lives and ease pain, and they sent him into the hot center of the war in Europe with only a red cross to protect him. Through Belgium, the Sauer River, the Moselle Valley, and Saxony, he tended to men he admired and feared. In the clash and riot of war he came to know courage, terror, brutality, humor, and grace and at the end he was changed.
This is the true story of Leo Litwak, an award-winning novelist and former WWII combat medic. It's the story of real people in war: friends, saints, dreamers, thieves, jokers, killers, revolutionaries, and heroes. And it's the view in depth of a young American plucked from a cozy campus and sent to a foreign land to save the men who intended to save the world.
Few books have portrayed the grit and wonder of war with such eloquence, and still fewer have shown how war looks through the eyes of a soldier bent on saving lives, not taking them. The Medic is a compelling addition to the literature of war and a moving depiction of a young man growing up.
Leo Litwak taught English literature at San Francisco State University for more than thirty years and is the author of the novel Waiting for the News, which won the 1970 National Jewish Book Award. His short story
"The Eleventh Edition" was awarded first prize in the 1990 edition of Stories: The O. Henry Awards.