Saying goodbye to the “Israeli Faulkner”

Novelist Abraham B. Yehoshua. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

Israeli literary giant A.B. Yehoshua died at the age of 85 on Tuesday. 

An Israeli novelist, essayist and playwright, Avraham Gabriel (“Boolie”) Yehoshua was one of the most prominent authors of his generation. Revered in Israel and respected on the international stage, he was once dubbed the “Israeli Faulkner” – by the New York Times in reference to the 20th century American Nobel Prize-winning man of letters William Faulkner. 

Yehoshua was part of a famous “literary trio” in Israeli public discourse, together with fellow authors Amos Oz (who passed away in 2019) and David Grossman. 

The author received Israel’s top cultural award, the Israel Prize, in 1995, along with dozens of other awards, including the Bialik Prize and the Jewish National Book Award, and his work was translated into 28 languages.

Eulogizing Yehoshua, President Isaac Herzog called him “one of Israel’s greatest authors in all generations, who gifted us his unforgettable works, which will continue to accompany us for generations.”

We’ll let the writer’s words speak for themselves.

Quotes from A.B. Yehoshua

  1. We should forget more. We should forget so we make room for new things in our mind.
  2. The most difficult and complicated part of the writing process is the beginning.
  3. And this is one of the major questions of our lives: how we keep boundaries, what permission we have to cross boundaries, and how we do so.
  4. Let us not overlook: The Palestinians in Gaza are our changeless neighbors, and we are theirs.
  5. I am a serious reader, and I read slowly. I deeply respect literature and expect to gain insight from a book and to identify emotionally with its characters. I therefore avoid reading suspense novels or science fiction. Family life and society are so rich and filled with surprises that I have no need of murders solved by clever detectives to better understand the drama of life all around me. 
  6. I will never write my CV without mentioning, ‘born in Jerusalem in 1936, fifth generation in Jerusalem.’ It’s very important for me.
  7. We always knew how to honor fallen soldiers. They were killed for our sake, they went out on our mission. But how are we to mourn a random man killed in a terrorist attack while sitting in a café? How do you mourn a housewife who got on a bus and never returned? They weren’t our agents, they didn’t die in our place. Indeed, we could have been killed exactly like them. (Speaking about the Second Intifada)
  8. This is literature’s obligation, to provide, through the plot and the framework, an integration of things that in life appear random or completely chaotic – things are connected… they’re not random. Even things that appear strange at first glance.
  9. I’m a very energetic and restless person. But when I sit at my writing table to write my fiction, I have great patience.
  10. In a time of crisis, there is rational tendency to turn to the writer.