AB Yehoshua, the writer who defined Israel's identity, dies at 85
Israeli writer AB Yehoshua, in 2019.
Israeli writer AB Yehoshua, in 2019.Leonardo Cendamo (Getty Images)

Abraham Bully (family nickname) Yehoshua, the least known, and perhaps most lucid, writer of an exceptional trio of Hebrew storytellers with international projection, along with David Grossman and Amos Oz (who died in 2018), has died this Tuesday as a result of cancer in a Tel Aviv hospital. A defender of Jewish national identity in his work, he also advocated from the labor and peace left for a solution to the Palestinian conflict, first through the formula of the two states, and at the end of his life through a confederacy.

“He offered us a sharp, reliable and loving image, sometimes also painful, of ourselves: a mosaic of deep feelings,” Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, fired him on behalf of the nation. Interviewed by EL PAÍS just a year ago, Yehoshua, who always signed his work with the initials of his first names, explained that the serious illness prevented him from having a face-to-face conversation. Wishing her a speedy recovery, he replied with a hesitation: “I don’t know. Since my wife died (she died two years before) nothing is like before”. In his last novel The tunnel (Duomo) delved into the darkness of Alzheimer’s, straddling realism and symbolism, to try to shed light on the identity of the Jewish state. Also about his own, to try to redeem himself from the desolation caused by the death of his wife, Rivka, with whom he lived for 56 years.

Born inland, into one of the oldest Sephardic families in Jerusalem, Yehoshua lived more than half his life in Haifa, in northern Israel, the port city that he considered the most “harmonious” in a country wracked by conflict. “After the Six-Day War of 1967, Jerusalem lost its sanity”, used to say this former paratrooper who participated in the Israeli military operation on the Suez Canal in 1957. In Haifa, at whose university he was a professor, he wrote almost all his work like the novels The lover Y the bonus, crowned with success among readers.

In a horizon framed by Mount Carmel and the Bay of San Juan de Acre, he also completed Journey to the end of the millennium (Siruela), narrated about an idea conceived during a journey through Andalusia. This novel describes the tribulations of a Sephardic merchant from Tangier who travels through the Mediterranean to Europe on the apocalyptic eve of the year 1000. As in almost all of his narratives, marriage and love are the main narrative axes of his.

Yehoshua, winner of the Israel Prize for Literature and the Médicis in France, was also the founder of the Israeli pacifist NGO B’Tselem. “The politics of the settlements (Jews in the West Bank) can lead to the apartheid”declared in 2008 to the newspaper Ha’aretz. A decade later, he argued that the two-state solution was no longer viable in the face of colonial expansion.

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