Israeli author Avraham Yehoshua, winner of the Medici Foreign Prize in 2012 and figure of the Israeli anti-occupation left, died at the age of 85, announced Tuesday, June 14, the Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv. Born in Jerusalem in December 1936 to parents of Greek and Moroccan origin, he published his first short stories in 1963. Since then, his novels and plays have been translated from Hebrew into more than 30 languages, including French.

In 1995, he received the Israel Prize, the most important cultural recognition in the country. And in 2012, he won the Prix Médicis in the foreign books category for Retrospective (Grasset), translated from Hebrew by Jean-Louis Allouche.

For Nitza Ben-Dov, a literature professor at the University of Haifa (north) who taught alongside him, Yehoshua was Israel’s “greatest author”. “He went from surreal and daydreaming stories, disconnected from time and space, to works rooted in Israeli culture and the present,” she told Agence France-Presse. Avraham Yehoshua’s later work was steeped in psychology, influenced by his psychoanalyst wife, according to Ben-Dov.

“Warm and open”, eager for recognition, he could also be biting in the face of his interlocutors, according to Ms. Ben-Dov. “He was a complex man, whose attitude towards the world was ambivalent. His awareness of the complexity of man, which he drew from his own experience, made his work plural,” she again praised.

Member of the NGO B’Tselem

A defender of Palestinian rights, Yehoshua was a member of B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization and fervent opponent of the occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel. This association hailed, on Tuesday, a man who “devoted his time and energy to equality, peace and human rights for all”.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog also paid tribute to him. The writer’s work “was inspired by our homeland and the cultural treasures of our people, portraying us in a fine portrait, faithful, compassionate and sometimes reflecting a painful image of ourselves”, he said in a statement. “He evoked in us a mosaic of deep feelings,” he added.

Avraham Yehoshua is to be buried Wednesday at the Ein Carmel cemetery in northern Israel.

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