Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Meyer Levin  

Pen Name: None

Genre: C:ADULT C:CHILD Fiction History Non-Fiction

Born: 1905 in Chicago, Illinois

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Illinois Connection

Levin was born in and lived in Chicago. He attended the University of Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Levin was an American novelist, playwright, writer, columnist, editor, reporter, war correspondent, director, actor and producer. He went to the University of Chicago, where he was a student reporter and covered the muder trial of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold. He graduated in 1924. Already a reporter and a columnist for the Chicago Daily News, he worked there until 1925, when he went abroad for a year to study painting at the Academie Moderne in Paris and to travel. He returned to the News and in 1929 produced his first novel, ''Reporter''. His fiction carefully reflected the world he knew firsthand, such as ''The New Bridge'' (1933), ''The Old Bunch'' (1937) and ''Citizens'' (1940), all set among Russian-Jewish immigrants in Chicago. ''Citizens'' is about the 1937 steel strikes in Chicago, in which 10 strikers were killed.With the publication of ''Yehuda'' in 1931 - a novel set on a kibbutz in what was then Palestine - Levin first became known as a writer and a noted chronicler of contemporary Jewish life. In the wake of World War II and the revelation of the Holocaust, that aspect of his work deepened. Both ''My Father's House'' (1947) and ''Eva'' (1959) deal with the drama of young people who are drivent out of Poland and escaping to Palestine to reunite. ''The Search'', his autobiography, was published in 1950. From 1933 to 1939 Levin worked as an associate editor and film critic with Esquire magazine and was a reporter of the loyalist side in the Spanish Civil War. He was also a war correspondent during World War II. Other works include ''The Settlers'' (1972) and ''The Illegals'' (1977), a film telling the story of the journey of Jewish immigrants from Poland to Israel.In 1956, Levin returned to the Chicago of his youth to write ''Compulsion'', a fictional account of the Leopold-Loeb murder trial. Levin had attended college with Leopold and Loeb at the University of Chicago, before the murder of Bobby Franks. He subsequently adapted it as a play, which had a notable run on Broadway and was made into a successful film in 1959. The novel brought Levin a Special Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America in 1957.Levin's frustrated attempts to dramatize the diary of Anne Frank led him to write two novels (''The Fanatic'' in 1964 and ''The Obsession'' in 1973) that dealt with his belief that his treatment of the material was rejected because of his strong anti-Communist stance. Much of his later life was spent in Israel, which inspired the novels ''Gore and Igor'' (1968), ''The Settlers'' (1972) and its sequel ''The Harvest'' (1978). Levin's last published work was ''The Architect'' (1982), in which he revisited early-20th-century Chicago in a fictionalized treatment of the life of Frank Lloyd Wright.


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Awards

-- William & Janice Epstein Fiction Award from the Jewish Book Council of America, and Harry and Ethel Daroff Fiction Award for ''The Stronghold'' Special Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America in 1957 for ''Compulsion'' Isaac Siegel Memorial Juvenile Book Award and Charles and Bertie Schwartz Juvenile Book Award, both from Jewish Book Council of America for ''The Story of Israel'' Special citation from World Federation of Bergen/Belsen Associations in 1969 for "excellence and distinction in literature of the Holocaust and Jewish destiny"