Death of Avraham B. Yehoshua, figure in Israeli letters and peace activist

With the death of Avraham Yehoshua on June 14 at the age of 85, he is one of the last great figures in Israeli literature born before the creation of the state of Israel to disappear. The writer played with Amos Oz, died in 2018 at the age of 79, a kind of totem combining literary work and political commitment even if, in the end, he was much more cautious about the merits of a Palestinian state, advocating the creation of a binational state. As soon as she was announced, Amos Oz’s daughter paid a vibrant tribute to him: “He was one of the most prolific, fine, and courageous writers I know, and his friendship with my father was unique.” they used to comment meticulously and lovingly on their respective manuscripts. ”

Avraham Yehoshua was as round and emotional as Amos Oz was dry and serious, they were born in the same neighborhood of Jerusalem, Keren Avraham, which had made connections. Later, they were angry with the two states, and Amos Oz remained convinced of the need to create a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel, with Avraham Yehoshua saying it was too late. of the advance of colonization. “The most important thing is to gradually abolish apartheid and give Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians,” he said. Release in 2019. But in the end, we didn’t talk about it with Amos anymore because I didn’t want to upset him. We were the last generation of intellectuals to position ourselves politically, we have a kind of moral authority. I am also very attached to David Grossman, even though he is much younger, especially since the death of Amos, it has brought us closer. ”

Also read: A glimmer of peace at the end of the “Tunnel” of the writer Avraham Yehoshua

A little disappointed and sad

Born in 1936 in Jerusalem into a Sephardic Jewish family, the writer grew up and studied in the Holy City three times. This mixture and this difficult coexistence of religions will permeate a work marked by memory and what it bequeaths of hopes and burdens. After Jerusalem, he spent a few years in Paris — which allowed him to speak French fluently — before settling in Haifa, another mixed city since Israeli Jews and Arabs live in good intelligence. He found his friends Amos Oz and David Grossman, with whom he campaigned for peace, at checkpoints for a long time, but in recent years he has been a little disillusioned and sad.

In Paris in 2019, he already looked tired, short of breath. Dressed in black, he said he was affected by recent mourning, beginning with that of his wife, a psychoanalyst. A drama for him who said he always put his wife’s career ahead of his own, and always considered family more important than literature. “There are so many dead around me,” he told us. We were three inseparable writers of the same generation: Amos Oz, Yehoshua Kenaz [également un grand traducteur, il a notamment traduit Balzac en hébreu, ndlr] and me. Amos Oz has just died, and Yehoshua Kenaz is slowly sinking into dementia. ” He knew he was next on the list.

Also read: Avraham B. Yehoshua listening to music and a female soul

Permanent questioning

At the twilight of his life, Avraham Yehoshua was no longer certain that the memory, so studied and sacred to the Jewish people, was so precious. On the occasion of the publication of his novel, the Tunnel (Grasset, 2019), one of whose heroes is gradually losing his mind (like his friend Yehoshua Kenaz), we asked him if this was one of his anxieties. “No, this story is more of a challenge to the tyranny of memory,” he said. We are too paralyzed by our memory, especially the memory of the Holocaust. This becomes an obstacle to moving forward. When I was young, there was no Holocaust Memorial Day, today is all the time. And the Palestinians are also weighed down by their memory. You have to lose your memory. Today, it’s all about identity: we are classified as Ashkenazi, Sephardic, women, homosexuals, secular, religious… this question of memory, identity, prevents us from being flexible, from ‘soar.” An incredibly questioning in the air of time.

There is something unreal about writing about his death today as he has just closed his last book. the only daughter (Grasset), a very pretty story full of melancholy depicting a pre-teenager living in an affluent Ashkenazi Jewish family in northern Italy, questioning Judaism, the sacred, religious diversity. A book haunted by family love and the approach of death: the young heroine’s father has a brain tumor, a tumor that his heroine calls “a supplement,” the ultimate disease.

The disappearance of Yehoshua gives this book a whole new dimension, it is as if he wanted to pass on the torch of constant questioning to the younger generation shortly before it died out: what is it to be Jewish? , and why can’t different religions intertwine? Her heroine, Rachele, embodies wisdom at the age of 12 far more than her slightly lost parents. It will be up to her, in essence, to continue the struggles and reflections that Yehoshua will no longer be able to undertake. Message of hope, then: what his generation and especially the next generation have missed, the news will fix it, perhaps.

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