A.B. Yehoshua, Israeli Writer, Dies at 85
In it, the protagonist Molkho has faithfully nursed his dying wife through seven years of illness, at times bathing “her scarred and tortured body,” which has already turned “into some fossil of a species that had become extinct long ago.” Yet, he longs to be free of the burden of caring for her and looks forward to no longer having to endure her sharp tongue.
As the novelist Lore Segal noted in a review for The Times, 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 the 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 firmly and evocatively set in Israel, Mr. Yehoshua’s novels are laced with themes that connect them to the contemporary Western 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.”