Famed Israeli author Amos Oz passes away at 79

The author of 40 books, Oz was one of the most recognizable Israeli voices worldwide.

By
December 28, 2018 16:22
3 minute read.
Amos Oz.

Amos Oz.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Amos Oz, the famed and internationally acclaimed Israeli author, died of cancer on Friday at age 79.

Oz’s daughter, Fania Oz-Salzberger, announced his death on Twitter.

“My beloved father, Amos Oz, a wonderful family man, an author, a man of peace and moderation, died today peacefully after a short battle with cancer,” she wrote. “He was surrounded by his lovers and knew it to the end. May his good legacy continue to amend the world.”

Oz, who penned dozens of books during his illustrious, more-than-50-year career, was one of Israel’s best known and most beloved literary figures.

One of his most well-known works was A Tale of Love and Darkness, which was published in 2002, translated into English in 2004 and adapted into a 2015 film by Israeli-American actress and director Natalie Portman. The non-fiction work detailed his life growing up in Jerusalem at the time of the declaration of the State of Israel and his mother’s suicide when he was only 12 years old.

The author’s other well-known works include My Michael, Black Box, Panther in the Basement and Judas. His fiction and non-fiction works have been translated into dozens of languages, and in many ways he was considered the father of modern Israeli literature.

Oz was born Amos Klausner in Jerusalem in 1939, the son of Fania and Yehuda Arieh Klausner, both Eastern European immigrants. He witnessed the birth of the State of Israel at the age of 9, and – after his mother’s suicide – moved to Kibbutz Hulda as a teenager, changing his last name to Oz, which is Hebrew for strength.

Oz fought in both the 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. In 1960, he married Nily Zuckerman, and the pair had three children: Fania, Galia and Daniel.

His first novel, Where the Jackals Howl, was published in 1965 when Oz was 26 years old.

Over the years, the novelist picked up legions of honors and awards both in Israel and abroad. In 1998, he won the Israel Prize for Literature, in 1997 he was named to the French Legion of Honor, in 2005 he was awarded the Goethe Prize, and in 2013 he won the Franz Kafka Prize, among more than a dozen other recognitions. Oz’s name was regularly mentioned as a potential contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Oz was twice shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize – in both 2007 and 2017. Last year, Oz lost to fellow Israeli author and his close friend David Grossman. Upon accepting his award in London, Grossman paid tribute to Oz, saying: “Amos is my friend and my teacher, and it’s very meaningful to be on the same list as him... Today there are so many wonderful, wonderful writers in Israel that deserve to be translated and to be read.”

Oz combined his literary career with decades of political activism, and was long associated with the Israeli peace camp. In the late 1970s, he helped found the Peace Now movement, and remained an impassioned critic of the Israeli government and fervent believer in the two-state solution.

His most recent work, Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land, was published in 2017 and translated into English last month. The book, comprised of three short essays, puts forth the author’s passionate argument in favor of a two-state solution and his hopes for a better future.

Despite criticism from both the Right and the Left, Oz never let go of his belief in the two-state solution.

“If there are not two states here, very soon, there will be one,” he wrote in Dear Zealots. “If there is one state, it will be an Arab one that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. Jews and Arabs can and should live together, but I would find it absolutely unacceptable to be part of a Jewish minority under Arab rule, because almost all the Arab regimes in the Middle East oppress and humiliate their minorities. And more importantly, because I insist on the right of Israeli Jews, like any other people, to be a majority, if only on a tiny strip of land.”

Oz is survived by his wife, Nily, and their three children Fania, Galia and Daniel, as well as several grandchildren.

Oz’s family requested that his organs be donated, and his corneas are slated to be transplanted to waiting patients.

Oz’s casket will be placed at the Tzavta Theater in Tel Aviv on Monday morning for the public to bid him farewell. A memorial ceremony for Oz will be held at noon. His funeral will be held at 3 p.m. in Kibbutz Hulda.

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