Hersey, John Richard

Hersey, John Richard hûrˈsē [key], 1914–93, American author, b. China, grad. Yale, 1936, where he later taught writing (1965–84); studied Cambridge. Reflecting his experiences as a war correspondent in World War II, many of his writings are concerned with the problem of intolerance and inhumanity. His first novel, A Bell for Adano (1944; Pulitzer Prize), depicts the American occupation of a rural town in war-torn Italy. Later novels include The Wall (1950), about the Jewish uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto against the Nazis and the first major book about the Holocaust; The War Lover (1959); The Child Buyer (1960); White Lotus (1965); Letter to the Alumni (1970); The Conspiracy (1972); and Antonietta (1991). His nonfiction works, many originally written for The New Yorker magazine, include Hiroshima (1946), a powerful report of the effects of atomic bombing, often called the first nonfiction novel and probably his finest and most enduring work; a five-part profile of President Harry Truman; The Algiers Motel Incident (1968), concerning an occurrence in the 1967 Detroit race riot; and Blues (1987), about fishing. Collections of his short stories include Fling and Other Stories (1990) and his last, Key West Tales (1994). Hersey felt his true calling was fiction, but most critics and readers regard his narrative journalism as his finest work.

See biography by J. Treglown (2019); studies by D. Sanders (1967), N. L. Huse (1983), and L. M. M. Blume (2020).

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