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Meir Shalev, preeminent Israeli author, dies at 74 Lalrp

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Meir Shalev, whose extensively translated works of fiction, nonfiction, memoir and kids’s literature established him as one in every of Israel’s most celebrated writers, a piquant observer who captured his nation’s historical past with out changing into mired in its politics, died April 11 at his residence within the northern village of Alonei Abba. He was 74.

The trigger was pancreatic most cancers, a consultant of the Deborah Harris literary company confirmed.

Mr. Shalev was born in 1948, the yr Israel grew to become a state, and emerged as one of many nation’s most outstanding males of letters, in contrast at occasions to A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, Aharon Appelfeld and David Grossman.

Though Mr. Shalev related himself with the Israeli left, he stood out from many literary figures in Israel by retaining his distance from politics and specifically from the seemingly intractable battle with the nation’s Arab neighbors.

Mr. Shalev regarded peace talks and parliamentary coalitions as superb subject material for newspaper columns, together with the one he wrote for 3 a long time for the centrist Israeli each day Yedioth Ahronoth. However he noticed literature — or at the very least the literature he wished to jot down — as a world aside.

“I’m suspicious of political literature,” Mr. Shalev once told the Jerusalem Post. “In lots of instances it doesn’t appear trustworthy to me and a few scenes appear pressured.”

After army service through the Six-Day Conflict of 1967, Mr. Shalev spent the early years of his profession in radio and tv, together with internet hosting a TV speak present. However his father had been a famous Israeli poet, and Mr. Shalev was finally drawn again into the literary world through which he was raised.

He wrote a number of kids’s books, together with the favored “Michael and the Monster of Jerusalem,” earlier than his first novel, “The Blue Mountain,” was revealed in 1988, the yr he turned 40. The ebook was animated by tales his grandmother had informed him about her life on a moshav, or cooperating farming neighborhood, within the a long time earlier than Israel grew to become an unbiased state.

Mr. Shalev “has departed from the compelling current and written a historic novel in regards to the pioneering custom that led to the beginning of Israel,” journalist Herbert Mitgang wrote in a New York Times review. The villagers who populated the ebook, Mitgang noticed, had “gladly traded one hardship for one more: the concern of dwelling virtually as aliens of their native Russia for an alien wilderness in Palestine.”

With its epic qualities and flashes of mysticism, Mr. Shalev’s work attracted frequent comparisons to the magical realism of Nobel Prize-winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez. (Mr. Shalev, for his half, cited writers together with Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Vladimir Nabokov and Sholem Aleichem as his larger literary influences.)

He had one other bestseller with “A Pigeon and a Boy” (2006), a novel that acquired the Brenner Prize, probably the most prestigious Israeli literary recognition. The ebook intermingles the midlife disaster of an Israeli tour information with a poignant romance between two homing-pigeon handlers through the 1948 Israeli conflict of independence.

“All of the weapons fell silent for a second,” reads an early passage in the book. “Ours and theirs. Not a single gun fired, no grenades exploded, and all of the mouths stopped shouting. It was so quiet that we heard the hen’s wings beating the air. For a single second each eye and each finger was following that hen as she did what all of us wished to do: make her manner residence.”

Mr. Shalev turned to memoir within the quantity “My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum Cleaner,” revealed in Hebrew in 2009, and extensively learn in Israel and past. The title referred to a present that the matriarch of his household had acquired from a rich American relation, and which, to the amusement of all who knew her, she put away, lest or not it’s dirtied by the mud of the as-yet-untamed land that was to turn into Israel.

Meir Shalev was born on July 29, 1948, in Nahalal, Israel’s first moshav, situated within the northern Jezreel Valley. To his nice unhappiness, he spent a lot of his upbringing in Jerusalem — “a fanatical metropolis, a tough metropolis, a foul metropolis,” he stated. “Its ruins are extra necessary than its properties, and its useless are extra necessary than its dwelling residents.” He a lot most well-liked the Jezreel Valley and would later return there to stay.

Mr. Shalev’s household included various writers and intellectuals along with his father. His mom was a instructor. He credited each his dad and mom with difficult him in his studying however recalled reacting in opposition to his father’s political conservatism from an early age.

“He wrote plenty of political poetry,” Mr. Shalev told Moment magazine. “After I was 12 or 13, I started to argue with him about this. I informed him that his lyrical poetry was a lot better than his political poetry. I like poetry that’s about reminiscence, longing and love — not politics. Equally, once I learn the Bible, the character of David as a father to his son is way more attention-grabbing to me than as a king to his individuals.”

Throughout Mr. Shalev’s army service, he was badly wounded by pleasant fireplace, an expertise that turned him more and more to the left. He studied psychology at Hebrew College in Jerusalem earlier than embarking on his radio and tv profession.

Mr. Shalev wrote greater than a dozen works of kids’s literature in all, amongst them the gently kidding “My Father All the time Embarrasses Me,” drawn from his personal expertise as a father. His novels included “Esau,” “4 Meals,” “The Loves of Judith” and “Two She-Bears.”

He wrote a number of nonfiction books on the Bible, amongst them “Beginnings: Reflections on Firsts within the Bible.” He described himself as a secular particular person and quipped that he noticed the Outdated Testomony as a kind of Jewish household novel. “In spite of everything,” he informed the German publication Die Welt, “solely 400 generations separate me from Abraham.”

Mr. Shalev and his spouse, Rina, had been as soon as divorced and remarried. In addition to his spouse, survivors embody their kids, Zohar and Michael; a brother; and two grandchildren.

In his newspaper columns, Mr. Shalev wrote extensively about Israeli present affairs, advocating a two-state answer for Palestinian battle and sometimes bemoaning the state of Israeli politics. “Israel and I had been born in the identical yr,” he observed a number of years in the past, his pessimism tempered by wry humor, “however I look a lot better!”