A.B. Yehoshua, Politically Engaged Israeli Writer, Dies at 85
a.b. yehoshua, politically engaged israeli writer, dies at 85

A.B. Yehoshua, Politically Engaged Israeli Writer, Dies at 85


As the novelist Lore Segal noted in The Times Book Review, Molkho, while his wife is still drawing breath, has his eye on his widowed legal adviser as a “post-mortem possibility” and spends the rest of the novel in encounters with other post-mortem possibilities.

Mr. Yehoshua won the National Jewish Book Award for fiction with “Mr. Mani” (1992), which traces the wanderings of six generations of the Sephardic Mani family through crucial periods of Jewish history. Each of its five chapters consists of the dialogue of a single speaker who is telling a story to another character, with that listener’s missing responses implied in the first character’s remarks. To complicate matters, the novel proceeds backward in time.

Though evocatively set in Israel, Mr. Yehoshua’s novels are laced with themes that connect them to the contemporary Western canon. (Mr. Bloom included “A Late Divorce” in a copious list of works that make up, in his view, that canon). As the critic Jerome Greenfield wrote in 1979: “In the existential despair, the pessimism, the sense of dislocation and alienation that pervade his work, Yehoshua establishes a bridge between modern Israeli writing and a dominant stream of some of the best Western literature of our age.”

Saul Bellow called Mr. Yehoshua “one of Israel’s world-class writers.” His books were translated into 28 languages. He won the Israel Prize, awarded annually by the state for important cultural contributions, and in 2005 he was shortlisted for the first Man Booker International Prize, then given for an entire body of work.

“In one movement of his imaginative wings,” Mr. Grossman, the Israeli novelist, wrote of Mr. Yehoshua in an email, “he would show us just how banal and absurd, just how the reality — especially of ours, in Israel — is surrealistic.”

Some critics saw Mr. Yehoshua’s novels and short stories as allegories for his jaundiced view of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. Others dismissed such interpretations. In a review of “A Late Divorce,” Walter Goodman, a Times critic, wrote that the novel’s Israeli characters, “use money, sex, food, humor, affection, cruelty to hold onto each other, to punish each other,” and that the novel “has nothing to do with the West Bank.”

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