Yehoshua, A. B. By Halevi-Wise, Yael
A leading Israeli writer and cultural figure since the 1960s, Avraham B. Yehoshua’s work was recognized, even when he was a young man, as representing a “new wave” in modern Hebrew literature. His absurd plots and obsessive protagonists signaled a break with the realist style and ideological collectivism characterizing the literature of a generation that had fought to establish the State of Israel in 1948. By contrast, the “new wave” writers moved toward abstract modernism, identity fragmentation, and absurd plots that, in Yehoshua’s case, revolve around dysfunctional families and tensions between nations and generations.
His first novel, Ha-Meahev [The Lover] (1977) surprised readers accustomed to his short stories, as it moved away from an abstract surrealism to engage more directly with Israeli reality in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. The social and political engagement of his subsequent fiction is so strong that all of his novels can be called condition-of-Israel novels, even when they are set in historical rather than contemporary contexts, as in his 1997 novel, Masah el Tom Ha-Elef [A Journey to the End of the Millennium], set in the Middle Ages, and his 1990 novel, Mar Mani [Mr. Mani], a postmodern historical novel composed of five complex conversations going back in time to cover two hundred years of Jewish life around the Mediterranean basin.