Avraham B. Yehoshua, Israel’s most revered and prolific novelist, dies at 85

Avraham B. Yehoshua, one of Israel’s most revered and prolific novelists and an outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights, has died at the age of 85, Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital announced Tuesday.

Yehoshua, born in Jerusalem in 1936 to parents of Greek and Moroccan origin, published his first collection of short stories in 1963.

Decades of critically acclaimed writing have earned him a series of international awards and his works have been translated into over 30 languages.

In 2012, he won France’s Medici Literature Prize – awarded to a writer whose fame has yet to match his talent – for a translated version of his novel “La Retrospective”.

Nitza Ben-Dov, a literature professor who taught at the University of Haifa with Yehoshua and is an expert on his works, described him as “our greatest author”, whose writing encompassed all literary genres and has evolved over the years.

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“He went from surreal dreamlike stories, disconnected from time and place, to works rooted in Israeli culture and existence,” she said, calling her later works “very psychological” under the helm. influence of his wife, who was a psychoanalyst.

Yehoshua was a “warm and open” man eager for recognition, Ben-Dov said, noting that he could also be painfully direct in conversation.

“He was a complex man whose attitude towards the world was ambivalent,” she said.

“His awareness of human complexity, which he drew from his own experience, made his work multifaceted.”

An advocate for Palestinians and a supporter of left-wing Israeli parties, Yehoshua was also a member of the public board of the prominent Israeli rights group B’tselem, which is fiercely critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The group said that Yehoshua had “devoted his time and energy to equality, peace and human rights for all”.

Ben-Dov called Yehoshua a “great patriot” who believed Jews could not be complete as people living outside of Israel, and whose writings reflected a deep connection to the Israeli experience.

“He was very connected to himself and his art, but at the same time he cared deeply about what was going on in the world,” she said.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog mourned Yehoshua’s death, saying his work “draws on the cultural treasures of our homeland and our people, reflecting us in a sharp, precise, compassionate, and sometimes painful mirror image.”

“He evoked in us a mosaic of deep feelings,” Herzog said in a statement.

His funeral will take place at the Ein Hacarmel cemetery in northern Israel on Wednesday afternoon.