Kenaz, Yehoshua

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KENAZ, YEHOSHUA (1937– ), Hebrew prose writer. Kenaz was born in Petaḥ Tikvah. He studied philosophy and Romance languages at the Hebrew University and French Literature at the Sorbonne. Kenaz worked for many years on the editorial staff of the daily Haaretz, and is known also for his masterly translations of French literature into Hebrew. One of Israel's most prominent prose writers, Kenaz published his first novel, Aḥarei ha-Ḥagim ("After the Holidays," 1987), in 1964, the story of the Weiss family in Petaḥ Tikvah of the Mandate period. Avoiding sentimentality and nostalgia, Kenaz portrays the tense, neurotic relationships between the parents and their two daughters in a dilapidated house which is indeed a metonymy for the disintegration of the family. Hatred, envy, and madness mark the atmosphere in this narrative about the first moshavah in Ereẓ Israel, with strange people, Jews and Arabs alike, frustrated passions, and unfulfilled dreams. Kenaz debunks the idealized and idealistic Zionist project, yet avoids addressing directly the traditional central themes of Hebrew writing. Neither warriors nor kibbutz members are his concern. Instead, he depicts the life of individuals against a prosaic, desolate urban setting, oscillating between the pathetic and the grotesque. Indeed, the unpoetic and the mundane fuel his poetic world. At the heart of his prose is not the heroic, successful, or thriving Israeli, but old, deranged people, losers of sorts, frustrated lovers. The "condition humaine" in a nutshell, set in an urban apartment house, a pattern recurring in Kenaz's prose, appears for the first time in his second novel Ha-Ishah ha-Gedolah min ha-Ḥalomot ("The Great Woman of the Dreams," 1973): The story of the sado-masochistic marriage of Shmulik and Malka and the unhappy relationship of Levanah and Zion is interwoven with the fates of a childless German-Jewish couple, a lonely Hungarian bachelor, and the blind, hypersensitive, and sensual Rosa. Similar in approach are Ha-Derekh el ha-Ḥatulim (1991; The Way to the Cats, 1994) and Maḥzir Ahavot Kodmot (1997; Returning Lost Loves, 2001). The Way to the Cats focuses on bodily decrepitude and mental deterioration as well as the loneliness of old people, primarily Yolanda Moskovich, who leaves an old age home and returns to her flat, yet cannot get rid of her paranoia and anxieties. The tragic and the comic, empathy and resentment mark the changing tone in Returning Lost Loves, in which, once again, several plots run in parallel. The central plot revolves around the liaison between a woman past her prime and a married man and is closely related to the story of unrequited love, rape, and murder taking place in the same building. Other episodes unfold the tortuous relationship between a father and his son, an army deserter. In 1980 Moment Musikali (Musical Moment, 1995) appeared, four stories which delineate the end of innocence and rites of manhood. Suffused with sensuality and passion, Kenaz depicts the painful process of maturing and self-awareness. Two novellas entitled Nof imSheloshah Eẓim ("Landscape with Three Trees") appeared in 2000. Undoubtedly one of Kenaz's finest accomplishments is his novel Hitganvut Yeḥidim (1986; Infiltration, 2003), the story of a platoon of recruits with minor physical disabilities during their basic training at an army camp sometime in the 1950s. Kenaz offers an impressive Israeli polyphony representing various ethnic and social groups and at the same time a rich texture of unique personal fates. This microcosmos of Israeli life reveals in an imposing, albeit disconcerting, manner the changes which have taken place in Israeli society, and in particular the shifting attitudes to the extolled paradigm of the Sabra, to politics, and to army life. Kenaz was awarded many literary prizes, including the Agnon Prize (1993) and the Bialik Prize (1995). His books have been translated into many languages, and information about translations is available at the ithl website under


G. Shaked, "Lehit'orer min ha-Ḥalom," in: Siman Keriah, 11 (1980), 119–24; Z. Shamir, in: Maariv (August 8, 1980); A. Balaban, "Bein ha-Kinor la-Palmaḥ," in: Moznayim, 55:4–5 (1982), 52–56; Y. Oren, "Deyukano shel ha-Amman ke-Tiron Ẓava," in: Moznayim, 60, 7 (1987), 76–78; M. Shaked, in: Hadoar, 66:2 (1987), 18–21; N. Amit, "Lehitbager zeh Livgod ba-Ḥalom," in: Mibifnim, 49:2 (1987), 146–55; A. Zemach, "Bi-Shlosha Rashim," in: Prozah, 103–104 (1988), 25–30; Y. Oren, "Mi-Ymei Ẓiklag le-Hitgannevut Yeḥidim," in: Moznayim, 62:5–6 (1988), 117–20; N. Calderon, "Avner Gabai, Kazanovah," in: Siman Keriah, 20 (1990), 389–93; O. Bartana, "Ma Yadu'a Lahem she-Lo Yadu'a Lanu?," in: Moznayim, 66:2 (1993), 26–30; N. Ben-Dov, "Separtah ve-Yeladeha ha-Avudim," in: Alei Siaḥ, 33 (1993), 113–19; N. Levy, Ha-Sipporet shel Y. Kenaz (1994); H. Herzig, Ha-Shem ha-Perati (1994); Y. Laor, Ha-Heterogeniyyut Hi ha-Gehenom," in: Anu Kotevim Otakh Moledet (1995), 13–49; L. Haber, "Dread and Joy in Y. Kenaz," in: Midstream, 42:1 (1996), 43–45; N. Levy, Me-Reḥov ha-Even el ha-Ḥatulim: Iyyunim ba-Sipporet shel Y. Kenaz (1997); G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 5 (1998), 273–303; Y. Oren, "Ha-Tofet ve-ha-Eden," in: Moznayim, 75:3 (2001), 43–47; H. Shacham, "Le-Hitpakkeaḥ mi-Ḥalom, le-Hippared mi-Ḥazon," in: Meḥkarei Yerushalayim be-Sifrut Ivrit, 18 (2001), 321–39; K. Alon, in: Alpayim, 26 (2004), 203–12; D. Grossberg, "Y. Kenaz's Army Novel: a Time for Celebration," in: Midstream, 50:2 (2004), 38–39.

[Anat Feinberg (2nd ed.)]