“His passing is the end of an era”: in memory of Abraham Yehoshua

Abraham Yehoshua at 'Incroci di Civiltà' in 2017

“Mr Yehoshua was an extraordinary writer who represented Israel for sixty years,” says Dario Miccoli, professor of Modern Hebrew Language and Literature at Ca’ Foscari’s Department of Asian and North African Studies. “It is thanks to his novels in particular that Italian readers were introduced to Israeli literature. Mr Yehoshua loved Italy and Venice, and in Mr Mani he described Venice as ‘every city’s dream’. I was lucky enough to meet him a few times, the last time being at a literary festival in Jerusalem. Even though at the time he was burdened with the health issues he had developed, he still managed to enchant and move the public with his culture, his irony and his ability to read Israeli society. His passing is the end of an era and of a generation — the one born before 1948, that has experienced the entire history of the State of Israel.”

In his novels The Lover, Mr Mani, The Liberated Bride and The Tunnel, among others, Mr Yehoshua described the complexity of Israeli society by exploring universal themes such as life as a couple and our relationship with others. He was praised for the variety of topics and styles he adopted. Mr Yehoshua was a prominent voice in the Israeli peace movement, and on various occasions he expressed his opinion on Israeli and Palestinian politics. Mr Yehoshua’s last novel, The Tunnel, was published in Italy by Einaudi in 2019, while his last short story, The Only Daughter — which is set in Italy — was published by Einaudi in 2021. A few months ago another short story,  Ha-miqdash ha-shlishi (“The Third Temple'') was published in Hebrew and is yet to be published in Italy.

The relationship between Ca’ Foscari and Abraham Yehoshua started in 2005, when Emanuela Trevisan Semi organised an international conference “Sguardi incrociati su Abraham B. Yehoshua”. Ca’ Foscari is one of the few Italian universities where the Hebrew language is taught together with literature and culture, with a focus on the evolution of the language over the centuries, from the language of the Bible to that of the present. Therefore, the work of great contemporary novelists such as David Grossman, Amos Oz and Abraham Yehoshua can become, for students of Hebrew, coursebooks that flank more traditional texts such as the Bible and Rabbinic literature.
The last occasion on which the Ca’ Foscari community and Abraham Yehoshua met was 2 December 2021, when the Department of Asian and North African Studies together with the Embassy of Israel in Italy organised an evening at Teatro Ca’ Foscari di Santa Marta to celebrate the writer. Israeli film director Yair Qedar presented the film Ha-pereq ha-aharon shel A. B. Yehoshua (“The Last Chapter of A. B. Yehoshua). After the film was screened, Mr Yehoshua had an online conversation with the director. 

On 12 April 2021, Mr Yehoshua closed the seminar “Abraham B. Yehoshua e il mito classico: sefardita, mediterraneo, universale”, which explored the relationship between his work and classical mythology. 

In 2017, Abraham Yehoshua inaugurated the 10th edition of the Incroci di Civiltà Literary Festival at Teatro Goldoni di Venezia. With Michael Chabon and Vikram Seth Mr Yehoshua had a conversation on the importance of literature in today’s world. During the festival he also spoke with Emanuela Trevisan Semi on his novel The Extra. Here are the videos of those conversations: 

Below: Abraham Yehoshua with his wife Ika during a boat ride in Venice in 2005. The author was a guest in the conference 'Sguardi incrociati su Abraham B. Yehoshua', organised by Emanuela Trevisan Semi

Photo by Emanuela Trevisan Semi