Amos Oz, a giant of Israeli letters for his works that explore human nature and the Israeli experience, died on Friday, December 28. He was 79.
His elder daughter, historian Fania Oz-Salzberger, said on Twitter that her father had died of cancer.
Oz, an Israel Prize laureate, was the author of dozens of Hebrew-language books including novels, novellas, short-story collections and essays, as well as around 500 pieces for Israeli and foreign periodicals. His books have been translated into dozens of languages.
His most famous works include the novels “Black Box” and “My Michael,” as well as the nonfiction works “A Tale of Love and Darkness” and “In the Land of Israel.”
Oz, born Amos Klausner, received a raft of awards in Israel and abroad such as the Prix Femina and Ordre des Arts et Lettres in France, the Frankfurt Peace Prize and the Primo Levi Prize in Italy. He was also regularly touted as a favourite for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
His memoir “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” which was published in Hebrew in 2002, won the Goethe Prize. It is one of Israel’s best-selling prose books ever.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said the news of Oz’s death “bring us sadness” and called him “a literary giant.” Culture Minster Miri Regev added that “your works, which you’ve left in our hearts, will resonate all over the world.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Oz was one of the greatest authors in Israeli history, adding that although their opinions differed on many issues, he deeply valued Oz’s contribution to Hebrew language and literature.
Oz was born in Jerusalem in 1939 and at 14, after the suicide of his mother, he moved to Kibbutz Hulda in the centre of the country. As a young man he studied philosophy and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He began publishing his writings in 1961 at the age of 22; a year earlier he had married Nily Zuckerman, with whom he would have three children.
Before his university studies, he spent three years in the army’s Nahal Brigade, and returned to duty during the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It was after his army experiences that Oz embraced a dovish outlook, promoting dialogue and peace between Israel and the Arab states. He wrote extensively about Israel’s conflict with its Arab neighbours.
Many of Oz’s stories are centered around kibbutz life and explore his characters’ relationships with the modern State of Israel. Both his fiction and nonfiction works examine human nature and present the land and people of Israel and the accompanying political subtleties.