Amos Oz, acclaimed Israeli author of A Tale of Love and Darkness, dies aged 79
Amos Oz, who was a perennial contender for the Nobel Prize in literature, had suffered from cancer. (AP: Dan Balilty)
Israeli author Amos Oz, one of the country’s most widely acclaimed writers and a pre-eminent voice in its embattled peace movement, has died after a battle with cancer at age 79, his family has announced.
- Benjamin Netanyahu described Mr Oz as “one of the greatest authors” in Israeli history
- Mr Oz’s 2002 memoir was made into a Hollywood film starring and directed by Natalie Portman
- He was a leading voice in Israel’s peace movement
His daughter, Fania Oz-Salzberger, announced her father’s death on Twitter, saying he died peacefully on Friday (local time) after a short battle with cancer.
Mr Oz was known around the world for writing dozens of novels, essays and prose about life in Israel, including well-received memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness.
He won some of the literary world’s most prestigious honours, including the Goethe Prize and the French Knight’s Cross of the Legion D’Honneur, received honorary doctorates and was a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Mr Oz was born in Jerusalem in 1939, the son of immigrants from eastern Europe.
As a teen he rebelled against his upbringing, looking to put behind what he felt was his parents’ world that glamorised Europe and the West and instead was drawn to the young pioneers who built the early state.
“I secretly dreamed that one day they would take me away with them. And make me into a fighting nation too,” he wrote in his 2002 memoir.
“That my life too would become a new song, a life as pure and straightforward and simple as a glass of water on a hot day.”
He would complete high school at Kibbutz Hulda in central Israel, and return to the kibbutz after completing his mandatory military service in 1961.
While working in the farming community’s cotton fields, he published his first short stories.
After earning a degree in literature from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, he would spend 25 years on the kibbutz, dividing his time between writing, farming and teaching at the community’s high school, according to his website.
As a reserve soldier in a tank unit, Mr Oz fought in the 1967 and 1973 Mideast wars.
In a career spanning half a century, Mr Oz published over 35 books, including 13 novels as well as children’s books and collections of short stories, and hundreds of articles on literary and political topics.
His works were translated into more than 40 languages.
His works included In the Land of Israel, a work that chronicled his travels and interviews with people throughout Israel and the West Bank in the 1980s about the country’s past and future; My Michael, a novel about a troubled marriage in 1950s Jerusalem, and A Tale of Love and Darkness.
That 2002 memoir, recounting his childhood in Jerusalem and the suicide of his mother when he was 12 years old, won him the Goethe Prize and other recognitions, and was adapted into a film starring and directed by Natalie Portman.
Oz remembered as one of Israel’s greatest authors
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was on an official visit in Brazil, remembered Mr Oz as “one of the greatest authors” in Israeli history.
“He greatly contributed to the renewal of Hebrew literature, with which he deftly and emotionally expressed important aspects of the Israeli experience,” he said.
“Even though we had differences of opinion in many fields, I greatly appreciate his contributions to the Hebrew language and the renewal of Hebrew literature. His words and his writings will continue to accompany us for many years.”
Mr Oz was a leading voice in Israel’s peace movement and a friend of the late Shimon Peres, a former prime minister and legendary politician who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach a deal with the Palestinians.
He frequently wrote essays and delivered lectures urging the country’s leaders to establish a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement with Israel.
He was among the founders of Peace Now, a leftist organization that opposes Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and was a leading voice in the 2003 “Geneva Initiative,” an unofficial peace plan reached by leading Israeli and Palestinians.
He also was a supporter and activist in Meretz, a dovish Israeli political party.
In recent years, he, along with fellow authors David Grossman and AB Yehoshua, became pillars of the country’s peace movement, which has grown increasingly marginalised over the past two decades.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted in response to Mr Oz’s passing: “A story of love and light and now great darkness”
“We are mourning the passing of Amos Oz, a wonderful Israeli poet and novelist, a towering voice for peace,” wrote the European Union’s delegation to Israel.
“May his memory be a blessing.”