Vance Bourjaily

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Vance Bourjaily
Born September 17, 1922
Cleveland, Ohio
Died August 31, 2010(2010-08-31) (aged 87)
Greenbrae, California
Occupation Novelist, Creative Writing Instructor, Newspaper editor, Essayist,
Nationality United States
Genre Fiction

Vance Bourjaily (September 17, 1922 – August 31, 2010) was an American novelist, playwright, journalist, and essayist.[1][2]


Bourjaily was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Monte Ferris Bourjaily, a Lebanese immigrant who was a journalist and later became editor of the United Features Syndicate, and Barbara Webb, an American-born features author and novelist.[3] Bourjaily moved several times during his youth. His childhood was spent in Connecticut, Virginia, and New York. Bourjaily graduated from Handley High School in Winchester, Virginia in 1939. After graduating, Bourjaily enrolled in Bowdoin College. With the coming of World War II, Bourjaily became a volunteer ambulance driver from 1942 to 1944. He then served two years in the army from 1944 to 1946. Bourjaily's time in the army was a central theme to many of his later writings. His Arab American themes are explored by literary critic Evelyn Shakir [4]

Bourjaily graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in 1947. While at Bowdoin, he became a brother of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Theta chapter).

Bourjaily married Bettina Yensen in 1946. The couple had three children; daughter, Anna, along with the daughter's fifth grade classmate, were killed in a 1964 car accident in which Bourjaily was driving. Yensen and Bourjaily later divorced. Bourjaily re-married in 1985, to Yasmin Mogul (a former student) and had a son by her. According to his wife, Bourjaily died in Greenbrae, California on August 31, 2010[3] where he'd slipped into coma just a few days after suffering from a fall.


Bourjaily's first novel, entitled The End of My Life, was heavily influenced by Bourjaily's wartime experiences.[5] Critics said that the novel borrowed heavily from the style and tone of Ernest Hemingway.[citation needed] However, the novel was met with praise and was hailed by critic John Aldridge as a war novel on the level of Hemingway's Farewell to Arms.[6] Bourjaily's second novel, The Hound of Earth, paints a picture of Cold War America through the eyes of a scientist who helped develop the atomic bomb. His third novel, The Violated, dealt with the themes of violence and alienation. This book was also met with critical praise.[citation needed]

Brill Among the Ruins is Bourjaily's most critically acclaimed novel.[citation needed] The novel was nominated for a National Book Award in 1970 and was praised in the New York Times Book Review.[citation needed]

Bourjaily spent much of his career in academia. From 1957 to 1980, he worked as a creative writing instructor and a professor at the University of Iowa. Bourjaily also worked at several other academic institutions such as Oregon State University, the University of Arizona, and Louisiana State University.

While living in San Francisco, Bourjaily wrote feature stories for the San Francisco Chronicle.[3]


Selected works[edit]

  • The End of My Life (1947)
  • The Hound of Earth (1955)
  • The Violated (1958)
  • Confessions of a Spent Youth (1960)
  • The Unnatural Enemy: Essays on Hunting (1963)
  • The Man Who Knew Kennedy (1967)
  • Brill among the Ruins (1970)
  • Country Matters: Collected Reports from the Fields and Streams of Iowa and Other Places (essays) (1973)
  • Now Playing at Canterbury (1976)
  • A Game Men Play (1980)
  • The Great Fake Book (1986)
  • Old Soldier: A Novel (1990)


  1. ^ Obituary New York Times, September 3, 2010, page B9.
  2. ^ Obituary Washington Post, September 4, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Bruce Weber, Vance Bourjaily, Novelist Exploring Postwar America, Dies at 87 from The New York Times, September 3, 2010.
  4. ^ Pretending to Be Arab: Role-Playing in Vance Bourjaily's "The Fractional Man" Evelyn Shakir, MELUS (Multi Ethnic Literature of the United States), Vol. 9, No. 1, Varieties of Ethnic Criticism (Spring, 1982), pp. 7-21
  5. ^">Vance (Nye) Bourjaily Biography
  6. ^

External links[edit]