The University of Wisconsin Press

Memoir / U.S. & European History / Radical Politics

Jumping the Line
The Adventures and Misadventures of an American Radical
William Herrick
With an introduction by Paul Berman

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor

“William Herrick is an unstoppable truth-teller, just as brave in his older years as when he enlisted for the war against Franco. He is our American Orwell.”
—Paul Berman, from the Introduction

An eye-opening account of time served in the great battles of our century—for workers’ rights, against Fascism, Communism, and racism—Jumping the Line is the life story of an American original. William Herrick chronicles his adventures and misadventures on the front lines of the Spanish Civil War, in (and very much out of) the Communist Party, driving a tractor on a communal farm in Michigan, jumping the line as a hobo, organizing African American sharecroppers in Georgia, at work with Orson Welles, and immersed in his own writing.

Herrick chronicles a life of great conviction and great disillusion. He went to Spain in 1936 to fight against the Fascists and there witnessed the horrifying acts that Fascists and Communists alike committed, before he was felled by a near-fatal wound. Here he tells about the life that led him, a working-class Jewish kid from New York, into the idealism and then the murky politics of this internecine conflict. From the bloody fight in Spain he takes us to the battlefields of the Communist movement in the U.S., where he found himself parading up and down the garment district of Manhattan, denouncing his former comrades.

When Paul Berman interviewed Herrick in the Village Voice in 1986, for the fiftieth anniversary of the Spanish Civil War, Herrick’s remarks so incensed other veterans of the Abraham Lincoln battalion that they picketed the paper. What William Herrick has to say doesn’t always go down easily. But for those who like the truth, with a dash of wit and a healthy dose of history, it can be exhilarating.

William Herrick is the author of ten novels, including the award-winning ¡Hermanos!, based on his experiences in the Spanish Civil War. His most recent novels are That’s Life and Bradovich, and he has written reviews for the New York Times Book Review and the New Leader. Born in 1915 to parents from Belarus, he is a member of American PEN and lives in New York state.

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cover of Jumping the Line features a black and white photo of William Herrick, against a white background with red lettering.

May 1998
LC: 97-034639 PS
308 pp.   6 x 9
24 illus. (b/w photos & line drawings)

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