Poet, translator Tuvya Ruebner passes at age 95

Ruebner was a noted translator from German, as well as from that language into Hebrew, and edited the work of poet Leah Goldberg.

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July 30, 2019 01:44
1 minute read.
Poet, translator Tuvya Ruebner passes at age 95

Tuvya Ruebner in 2012 . (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Tuvya Ruebner, who was awarded the Israel Prize for Hebrew poetry in 2008, passed away at his home in Kibbutz Merhavya on Monday. He was 95.

Ruebner was an accomplished photographer and translator, translating noted Hebrew writers such as Leah Goldberg and S. Y. Agnon into German.

Born Kurt Ruebner in Czechoslovakia’s Bratislava in 1924, he immigrated to Mandate Palestine in 1941. His entire family was murdered in Auschwitz in 1942.

A veteran of the 1948 War of Independence, he made Kibbutz Merhavya his home. His ability to pursue a literary career was made possible under tragic circumstances: he was badly injured in a traffic accident that claimed the life of his wife, Ada. The kibbutz enabled him to work as a literature teacher, and he later remarried pianist Galila Israeli. Already a father to Miriam from his first marriage, Ruebner became a father to more two children: Idan, who is a Buddhist monk in Nepal, and Moran, who vanished in Ecuador in 1983.

The judges who awarded him the Israel Prize in 2008 spoke of his poetic work as daring to deal with the great themes of modern Jewish history, including the Holocaust. An example of this, the judges said, can be found even in his early poem “Between these mountains,” in which he describes how, while on the beach, he experiences the European forest of his childhood (“in this beach my salt-dry lips/ will breathe, gaping, the scent of a forest”). He is also unique among Hebrew poets in exploring the visual arts in his 1982 book Figure and Mask.

Another example of his ongoing dialogue with Western culture is a poem he dedicated to the medieval French poet Francois Villon titled “Old man in love,” which contains references to the poetic works of Villon, who died young in an unknown manner.

Calling his poetic and translation work “an unusual bridge to European culture,” Dr. Gideon Tikotcki of Tel Aviv University said that his translations were so superb that they might have been the reason why S. Y. Agnon won the Noble Prize for literature in 1966 Agnon won the award alongside Jewish poet Nelly Sachs.


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