The acclaimed Israeli author Amoz Oz has died at 79.
Oz’s daughter, the historian Fania Oz-Salzberger, a professor at the University of Haifa, announced his death on social media.
“My beloved father passed away from cancer after a rapid decline. He has passed away peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by loved ones.”
Oz was a prolific and celebrated writer. The author of 40 books and hundreds of essays and articles, he was an Israel Prize laureate and awarded the French Legion of Honour, among countless other literary prizes and distinctions.
Known for his novels and short stories as well as his nonfiction work, Oz authored a number of widely read and highly regarded books including My Michael, Black Box, and In the Land of Israel. His celebrated memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, was adapted for the screen in 2015 by Natalie Portman, who starred in and directed the movie.
Oz’s parents emigrated to Israel from Eastern Europe, where—in Jerusalem in 1939—their son Amos was born. When he was 12, his mother, who suffered from depression, committed suicide. Two years later at 14, Oz became a committed labor Zionist and left home to join a kibbutz. His first book, the short story collection Where the Jackals Howl, was published in 1965. After serving in the IDF during the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars and studying philosophy and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Oz embarked on his writing career.
Oz’s last published work was Dear Zealots: Letters From a Divided Land. The book, which was just published in English last month, is a slim collection of essays expounding on the author’s lifelong dedication to peace through a two-state solution. “Dear Zealots is not just a book of thoughts and ideas,” wrote Israeli novelist David Grossman, “it is a depiction of one man’s struggle, who for decades has insisted on keeping a sharp, strident and lucid perspective in the face of chaos and at times of madness.
“I have two pens on my desk,” Oz once told an audience during a 2011 event at New York’s 92nd Street Y. “One pen to tell stories and another pen to tell the government to go to hell.”
Among the many words of praise and remembrance for Oz as news of his death spread, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin offered this: “Sorrow descends upon us as Shabbat enters. A literary titan. Splendor of our authors. A giant of the humanities. Rest in peace, our beloved Amos.”
Tablet’s afternoon newsletter edited by Jacob Siegel.