Erich Segal, American author of popular novels “Love Story“, “The Class” and “Doctors“, died from a heart attack in London on January 17th. He was buried at a Jewish cemetery in north London on Tuesday. He was 72 and had battled Parkinson’s disease for 25 years. He taught Greek and Roman literature at Yale University. He had also taught at Harvard and Princeton Univerity.
He was born June 16, 1937, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was the son of a rabbi. He studied Hebrew and other languages from an early age and became fluent in German and French, as well as Latin and Greek.
Despite the fact that his novel “Love Story” was a big success both as a book and a movie, it wasn’t received well in the literary world.
He had originally written “Love Story” as a screenplay about the star-crossed love between a working-class Italian girl from Radcliffe and a Harvard boy from an old family. The 1970 film, which starred Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal and became a huge hit, was in production before Mr. Segal reworked it as a novel. When “Love Story” was released in paperback, it had the largest print order in the publishing history at the time, with 4,325,000 copies.
Although Mr. Segal’s work resonated with the public, critics almost uniformly lambasted it. The judges for the National Book Award threatened to resign unless “Love Story” was withdrawn from nomination.
“It is a banal book which simply doesn’t qualify as literature,” said novelist William Styron, the head judge of the fiction panel. “Simply by being on the list it would have demeaned the other books.“
In his eulogy, his daughter Francesca said
“That he fought to breathe, fought to live, every second of the last 30 years of illness with such mind-blowing obduracy, is a testament to the core of who he was — a blind obsessionality that saw him pursue his teaching, his writing, his running and my mother, with just the same tenacity. He was the most dogged man any of us will ever know.“
He is survived by his wife Karen and daughter Francesca.
I have read and loved all his novels and would recommend them to everyone.