Yehoshua, A(braham) B.

views updated

YEHOSHUA, A(braham) B.

Nationality: Israeli. Born: Jerusalem, 9 December 1936. Education: Jerusalem Hebrew Gymnasium; Hebrew University, Jerusalem, B.A. 1961; Teacher's College, graduated 1962. Military Service: Israeli Army, 1954-57. Family: Married Rivka Kirsninski in 1960; one daughter and two sons. Career: Teacher, Hebrew University High School, Jerusalem, 1961-63; director, Israeli School, Paris, 1963-64; secretary-general, World Union of Jewish Students, Paris, 1963-67; member, board of art, Keshet literary magazine, 1967-74. Dean of students, 1967-72, and since 1972 professor of comparative literature, Haifa University. Visiting fellow, St. Cross College, Oxford University, 1975-76; guest professor, Harvard University, 1977, University of Chicago, 1988, 1996, and Stanford University, 1990; visiting professor, Princeton University, 1992. Editorial consultant, Siman Kria, Tel-Aviv Review, and Mifgash.Awards: Akum prize, 1961; Municipality of Ramat-Gan prize, 1968; University of Iowa fellowship, 1969; Prime Minister's prize, 1972; Brenner prize, 1983; Alterman prize, 1986; Bialik prize, 1989; National Jewish book award (U.S.), 1990; Israeli Booker prize and Israel prize, both in 1992; Koret prize AP, 2000. Honorary degrees: Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1990; Tel-Aviv University, 1998. Address: Office, Haifa University, Department of Literature, Mount Carmel, 31999, Haifa, Israel.

Publications

Novels

Bithilat kayits 1970 (novella). 1972; as Early in the Summer of 1970, 1977.

Hame'ahev. 1977; as The Lover, 1977.

Gerushim me'ucharim. 1982; as A Late Divorce, 1984.

Molcho. 1987; as Five Seasons, 1989.

Mar Maniy. 1990; as Mr. Mani, 1992.

Ha-shiva me-hodu [Return from India]. 1994; as Open Heart, 1996.

Masa el tom haelef. 1997; as Voyage to the End of the Millennium, 1999.

Short Stories

Mot hazaken [Death of the Old Man] (novella). 1962.

Mul haye'arot [Facing the Forests]. 1968; translated in Three Days and a Child, 1970.

Three Days and a Child (selections). 1970.

Tishah sipurim [Nine Stories]. 1970.

Ad horef 1974: Mivhar (selections). 1975.

The Continuing Silence of a Poet. 1988.

Kol ha-sipurim. 1993.

Plays

Laylah beMai (produced Tel-Aviv, 1969). As A Night in May, in Two Plays, 1974.

Tipolim acharonim (produced Haifa, 1973). As Last Treatment, in Two Plays, 1974.

Two Plays: A Night in May and Last Treatment. 1974.

Hafetsim (produced Haifa, 1986). Translated as Possessions, in Modern Israeli Drama in Translation, 1993.

Tinokot laylah [Babies of the Night] (produced 1992).

Screenplays:

Sheloshah yamim veyeled [Three Days and a Child], 1967; Hame'ahev [The Lover], 1986; The Continuing Silence of a Poet (Germany), 1987.

Other

Bizechut hanormaliyut. 1980; as Between Right and Right, 1981.

Israel, with Frederic Brenner. 1988.

Hakir vehahar: metsi'uto halosifrutit shel hasofer beYi'sra'el [The Wall and the Mountain: The Literary Reality of the Writer in Israel]. 1989.

Kohah ha-nora shel ashmah ketanah: Ha-heksher ha-musari shel ha-tekst ha-sifruti. 1998; as The Terrible Power of a Minor Guilt: Literary Essays, 2000.

*

Critical Studies:

"An Appraisal of the Stories of Yehoshua" by Baruch Kurzweil, in Literature East and West, 14(1), 1970; "Yehoshua As Playwright" by Anat Feinberg, in Modern Hebrew Literature, 1, 1975; "A Touch of Madness in the Plays of Yehoshua" by Eli Pfefferkorn, in World Literature Today, 51, 1977; "Distress and Constriction" by Haim Shoham, in Ariel, 41, 1976; "Multiple Focus and Mystery" by Leon I. Yudkin, in Modern Hebrew Literature, 3, 1977; "A Great Madness Hides behind All This" by Gershon Shaked, in Modern Hebrew Literature, 8(1-2), 1982-83; "Casualties of Patriarchal Double Standards: Old Women in Yehoshua's Fiction," in South Central Bulletin, 43(4), 1984, and "The Sleepy Wife: A Feminist Consideration of Yehoshua's Fiction," in Hebrew Annual Review, 8, 1984, both by Esther Fuchs; Possessions As a Death Wish" by Gideon Ofrat, in Modern Hebrew Literature, 12(1-2), 1986; "Yehoshua: Dismantler" by Chaim Chertok, in his We Are All Close:Conversations with Israeli Writers, 1989; "Yehoshua," in The Arab in Israeli Literature, 1989, and "Yehoshua and the Sephardic Experience," in World Literature Today, 65(1), 1991, both by Gila Ramras-Rauch; "Yehoshua's 'Sound and Fury': A Late Divorce and Its Faulknerian Model" by Nehama Aschkenasy, in Modern Language Studies, 21(2), 1991; Facing the Fires: Conversations with A.B. Yehoshua by Bernard Horn, 1997.

* * *

Like Amos Oz and Yehudah Amichai , A.B. Yehoshua belongs to what was dubbed the new wave of Israeli writers born in the 1930s and '40s who came to prominence in the 1960s. While ruptures in the diaspora and the advent of Israeli statehood defined their historical moment and shaped them sociopolitically, such writers (largely inspired by the poet Natan Zach) reached back a generation to figures like S.Y. Agnon , Y.H. Brenner, and David Vogel for models of a renegotiated literary tradition. Their social milieu also contrasted dramatically with that of their counterparts in the immediately preceding generation, molded as they were by the kibbutz or the War of Independence. Thus, Yehoshua's formative development at Hebrew University rather than a youth organization or military unit was representative and to a certain extent explains the academic and aestheticizing thrust of the gal hadash (new wave) in literary prose that sought to exchange an earlier social-realist program for subtler and more formally complex modes. Agnon, Kafka, and Faulkner are the primary influences Yehoshua acknowledges in the body of his fiction and also in critical studies he has penned.

In order of composition, Yehoshua has published three collections of short stories (1963-72), two books of essays, Between Right and Right (1981) and The Wall and the Mountain (1989), and six novels, The Lover (1977), A Late Divorce (1984), The Five Seasons (1989), Mr. Mani (1992), Open Heart (1996), and Voyage to the End of the Millennium (1999). While Open Heart was his greatest popular success, Mr. Mani, appropriately enough, precipitated a unique cultural conversation—two collections of reviews and essays within five years of the novel's release—as befits a book that revoices a debate about Israel's present outside the limiting discursive confines of nationalism and fundamentalism. Additionally many of Yehoshua's works have been dramatized, filmed, or, in the case Mr. Mani, given public readings; he has been awarded the Brenner, Alterman, Bialik, Israeli Booker, and Israel prizes, the last being the most eminent literary honor his country bestows.

The poetics of Yehoshua's writing—narrative technique, symbolist structures, literary influences—deserve the closest kind of scrutiny, yet, to borrow from the English title to one of his novels, it is their "open heart," particularly in Mr. Mani, that might best situate the author in the present context. Before ideology, history, and myth, Yehoshua has said, that novel tells a story of patrimony. And in Yehoshua's case, paternity and sonship (while also paralleling, albeit critically, a determinative masculinist bias in modern Hebrew literature up through the State generation) possess a special resonance inasmuch as his family is Sephardic with roots in Jerusalem going back to the early nineteenth century. By contrast both Oz and Amichai are the sons of fathers whose surnames and national origins reflect the legacy of Ashkenazic (European) Jewry. Moreover the novel's proliferation of identities says as much about the author's own various personal allegiances—to forebears both familial and literary, to Sephardic, secular, and Zionist cultures, to a presentist ethic informed by a novelist's sense of history—as it does about its characters'.

In the last regard Yehoshua has been an outspoken critic of the government's treatment of Palestinians within and without the green lines that separate territory annexed in 1967 from the rest of Israel. His peer Amos Oz and younger contemporary David Grossman are most often associated with him as writers and Jews who perforce speak as citizens co-responsible for the decisions of state. More revealing, however (once again, apropos of the obliquity at the core of Mr. Mani ), has been an ongoing adversarial dialogue, along with reciprocal admiration, with the Arab-Israeli author Anton Shammas, whose novel Arabesques portrays a Yehoshua-like figure satirized for his paternalism. Perhaps the most important of the extraliterary supplements to the conversations in Mr. Mani, that exchange—with an equally adept writer who is also an Israeli citizen though not a Jew—merely participates in and extends the logic of Yehoshua's own literary intuitions: beyond where he can go ideologically perhaps but in the same spirit of bending axis toward margin, of subtending polarities with what the novelist Robert Musil called "the third possibility."

—Adam Zachary Newton

See the essay on Mr. Mani.

About this article

Yehoshua, A(braham) B.

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article