Writer, painter Yoram Kaniuk dies at 83

The author of many famous novels, and winner of several literature awards, Kaniuk succumbs after a long fight with cancer.

June 8, 2013 22:56
2 minute read.
The cover for Yoram Kaniuk’s new book.

Yoram Kaniuk 521. (photo credit: Iris Nesher)

Writer and painter Yoram Kaniuk died on Saturday night at the age of 83 after a long battle with cancer. His family said that his body will be donated to science, as per his request.

Last Wednesday, Kaniuk wrote in his personal blog, “four days of grief. High fever. After suffering two types of cancer and shingles, I understand sickness and pain, but I have never experienced pain like the past four days; 40 viruses that required a three-day convention at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv to get to know each other, sprang from the cancer with a slight touch of heat, of cold, of vomiting, of pain, of disgust, and as night, came to my window and to my bed. I said, come on already!”

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Kaniuk was born in Tel Aviv in 1930, and joined the Palmach at the age of 17. He took part in the 1948 War of Independence, specifically in the fighting in Jerusalem. He was injured in combat and won a Sapir Prize for a book he wrote that told his story.

Among the many famous and controversial books he authored were The Last Jew, The Last Berliner, and Adam Resurrected.

Kaniuk won the Bialik Award and the President’s Award for Literature, among others, and many of his novels have been adapted into successful movies.

He studied art at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem and later in Paris. He also lived in New York for 10 years where he sold his art. In 1958, he married Miranda, who was not Jewish, and brought her back to Israel, where the couple had two children.

In May 2011, Kaniuk asked to changed his legal status from "Jewish" to “no-religion” after his grandson was listed as such. The court granted his request in September of that year.

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat called Kaniuk "one of the greatest authors of our time" on Saturday, and said his books helped create the Israeli ethos. She said it was Kaniuk who alerted her to problems facing Israeli authors, that legislation is currently trying to fix.

“It pains me that he did not get to see the bill passed into law in the Knesset,” Livnat said.

“I see passing the bill as a request he left me to fulfill and I will. I have no doubt that although he has left us, he will continue to make his mark on Israeli culture through his books.”

The bill, which was drafted by Livnat, stipulates that books cannot be sold for less than their list price for the first 18 months after publication. It also sets minimum royalties for authors during the same period of time – 8% on the first 6,000 copies sold and 10% for each additional copy.

Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich said she was saddened by the death of Kaniuk, who she said was disappointed with the country, but could not stop loving it.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said he was a caring man who never tried to hide his views and never ceased trying to change Israeli reality until his dying day.

Translated by Amishai Gottlieb.

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