A.B. Yehoshua

To this author and social critic, Israeli identity comes first.

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A.B. Yehoshua is one of Israel's leading contemporary authors, and one of the most widely published Israeli writers. His works have been translated into 28 languages, and he is the recipient of the Bialik Prize, the Israel Prize for Literature, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Yehoshua's stories are deeply rooted in the landscape and culture of Israel, often holding a mirror to Israeli society, yet they are also universal in their scope, which contributes to their global appeal.

a.b. yehoshua

Photo courtesy of Yuma.

Avraham "Boolie" Yehoshua was born in Palestine in 1936, a fifth-generation Sephardic Jerusalemite. Following his formal education at The Hebrew University, where he studied literature and philosophy, Yehoshua moved to Paris for four years.

In 1967 Yehoshua returned to Israel and served as a paratrooper during the Six Day War. Today he resides in Haifa, where he has been a senior lecturer in literature at the University of Haifa since 1972.

While a strong believer in the legitimacy of Israel's existence, he is quick to hold his homeland up to a high standard when it comes to moral behavior. Yehoshua has written about his frustration with corrupt government figures and criticized the Jewish settlers in the West Bank.   

A Provocative Body of Work

Yehoshua's stories often have several protagonists and are often told in multiple first-person accounts. This leaves room for overlapping narrative as well as ambiguity at the novel's end as the characters' individual stories do not present a unified conclusion, leaving the final assessment up to the readers.  He is also credited with being among the first to give voice to an Arab character in post-1948 Israeli literature.

Yehoshua's first novel, The Lover (1977), is composed of five accounts of a single storyline. Set in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, Adam, a middle-aged Israeli with a wife and daughter, searches for his wife's lover--the novel's namesake--who disappeared amidst the chaos of battle. Through Adam's quest a dramatic series of events unfold, exposing tension on all fronts: among family, between generations, between Jews and Arabs, and amid the overall landscape of Israel.

Using individual and distinct monologues to tell a story, Yehoshua creates an opportunity for each voice to be heard on its own equal terms, including Naim, a young Arab boy from the nearby village. Additionally, this narrative structure allows each character to propel the story in a different direction--sometimes responding to other characters and other times existing independently.

In The Late Divorce (1982), Yehoshua employs a similar style. Spanning the 10 days before Passover, the story revolves around an aging couple seeking a divorce and the impact this has on their family. The novel plays with social mores, leaving readers uncomfortable with the brash honesty of Yehoshua's characters' words.
 
With the family gathered at a restaurant, Kedmi--the son-in-law of the man seeking the divorce--says to their Arab waiter: "Grandpa is leaving Israel. Aren't you glad? There'll be one less of us here." The waiter responds: "The gentleman can't be serious.  Kedmi, in turn, says: "Maybe it's not so bad for you… After all, you people think you own it."

While The Late Divorce only spans a week and a half, Mr. Mani runs six generations deep into the Mani family, told through five different conversations about a Mr. Mani, each of whom has a relationship with the city of Jerusalem. Representing Jewish continuity over time and place, the novel also reminds us of how scattered the Jewish experience has been as the storyline moves around the world.

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Stephanie Tankel

Stephanie Tankel is the Principal Educator at The West London Synagogue of British Jews, where she oversees the religion school and Europe's largest conversion program. Prior to moving to London, Stephanie lived in New York City where she earned a dual Master's degree in Jewish Education and Modern Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.