Home News International Amoz Oz, iconic Israeli novelist and peace activist, is dead at 79

Amoz Oz, iconic Israeli novelist and peace activist, is dead at 79

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Amos Oz (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Amos Oz, one of Israel’s most widely read and best-known writers, has died. He was 79.

The cause was cancer, the Israeli media reported.

Barely older than the country he chronicled in dozens of novels, essays and nonfiction books, Oz represented a generation of writers who traced the country’s emotional arc from its adolescence to the present. He also was one of the country’s most vocal peace activists, calling on successive governments to resolve the Palestinian issue and embrace what he called “the logic of demography and the moral imperative to withdraw from governing a hostile population.”

In novels like My Michael, Black Box, Where the Jackals Howl and his 2002 autobiographical novel A Tale of Love and Darkness — later made into a film by and starring Natalie Portman — he drew on his own experience as a first-generation Israeli raised in Jerusalem and later a kibbutznik to tell intimate stories that were inevitably read — despite his frequent protestations — as political allegories. A Tale of Love and Darkness tells the story of his family’s roots in Volyn (historic Volhynia), Poland, and his childhood in Mandatory Palestine where Oz – then Amos Klausner – was born in 1939.

Though his parents did not speak Hebrew at home, Hebrew was the language spoken by Oz as a boy, the language from which Oz the teenager forged a new last name and the language Oz the man would eventually write in, becoming a celebrated novelist whose oeuvre has been translated into dozens of languages, from Arabic to Chinese.

He won countless awards, including the Israel Prize, and his books have been translated into dozens of languages. For several years he had been mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for literature.