Fellow writers, Natalie Portman mourn death of ‘brave’ ‘mensch’ Amos Oz
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Fellow writers, Natalie Portman mourn death of ‘brave’ ‘mensch’ Amos Oz

Author David Grossman says ‘the world is diminished a little’ with Oz’s passing; A.B. Yehoshua eulogizes a ‘wonderful writer’ and friend

Amos Oz takes part in the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem on May 3, 2010. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Amos Oz takes part in the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem on May 3, 2010. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Fellow Israeli writers mourned the death of Amos Oz on Friday, remembering him as a close friend and one of the greatest authors in Israel’s history.

David Grossman, like Oz a winner of the Israel Prize in literature, said he felt “the world is diminished a little” with the novelist’s passing.

“There will not be another Amos Oz, there was only one like him. You can say this about every human being, of course, but there was something unique about Amos,” Grossman told the British weekly The Observer.

“When a person like Amos – a man of such grandeur, and I don’t say that easily – passes away, the world is diminished a little, it’s narrowed down a little,” he added.

Grossman also remembered Oz as a close friend.

David Grossman receives an honorary doctorate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s annual convocation, on June 11, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“He was a human being, he was a mensch, he was warm and generous and curious, and he wanted to know family details and what I was doing, and he shared with me things. [His death] is really such a painful thing,” he said.

Of Oz’s dozens of books, Grossman singled out the autobiographical “A Tale of Love and Darkness” for praise.

“It’s not only his autobiography, but in a way the biography of Israel even before it was created,” he said.

The book, which portrays three generations of Jewish life in Jerusalem, was published in 2012 and later turned into a movie by Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman.

“My heart is broken. Today we lost a soul, a mind, a heart, Amos Oz, who brought so much beauty, so much love, and a vision of peace to our lives. Please hold him in your hearts and read his gorgeous books. My most loving embrace to his family, who he loved extremely,” Portman wrote on Instagram.

The movie was Portman’s directorial debut.

Also mourning Oz’s death was author A.B. Yehoshua, another close friend and Israel Prize winner.

“There were 60 years of friendship between us — a deep and true friendship,” Yehoshua was quoted saying by the Ynet news site.

“He was a brave person and wonderful writer. Someone who came into his own. He was a good friend. He was one of the greatest here,” he added of Oz.

Along with Grossman and Yehoshua, Oz became a pillar of Israel’s peace movement, which has grown increasingly marginalized over the past two decades.

Israeli authors and commentators David Grossman, left and Amos Oz, center, listen to A.B. Yehoshua, right, during a joint press conference in Tel Aviv on August 10, 2006. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Oz, 79, died Friday after a short battle with cancer.

“My beloved father has just passed away from cancer after a swift deterioration,” his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger said in a brief statement. Oz died “peacefully in his sleep, surrounded by loved ones,” she said, calling on the public to respect the family’s privacy. “Thank you to all who loved him,” she said.

Oz was Israel’s most widely read and best-known author, and was hailed by Israel’s president on Friday as the country’s “greatest writer.”

He won dozens of awards, including the Israel Prize and Germany’s Goethe Award, and his books have been translated into 45 languages. He had repeatedly been mentioned as a leading candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature, but it eluded him.

Amos Oz and Shimon Peres attend the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem on May 12, 2008. (Flash90)

Born Amos Klausner in Jerusalem in Mandatory Palestine in 1939, the city would provide a canvas for many of his works including “Black Box” (1987) and “In the Land of Israel.”

He is survived by his wife Nili and three children.

Considered one of the most accomplished authors in the history of Israeli literature, Oz was also among the country’s most vocal left-wing activists and supporters of a two-state solution.

After news of his death was announced on Friday afternoon, tributes poured in from across the political spectrum in Israel.

In a career spanning half a century, Oz published over 35 books, including 13 novels as well as children’s books and collections of short stories, and hundreds of articles on literary and political topics.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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