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David Grossman (2015)
January 25, 1954 |
|Alma mater||The Hebrew University of Jerusalem|
He addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in his 2008 novel, To the End of the Land. Since that book's publication he has written a children's book, an opera for children and several poems. His 2014 book, Falling Out of Time, deals with the grief of parents in the aftermath of their children's death. In 2017, he was awarded the Man Booker International Prize in conjunction with his frequent collaborator and translator, Jessica Cohen, for his novel A Horse Walks Into a Bar.
Grossman was born in Jerusalem. He is the elder of two brothers.
His mother, Michaella, was born in Mandatory Palestine; his father, Yitzhak, emigrated from Poland with his widowed mother at the age of nine. His mother's family was Zionist and poor, his grandfather having paved roads in the Galilee and supplemented his income by buying and selling rugs. His maternal grandmother was a manicurist. His paternal grandmother left Poland after being harassed by police, never before having left the region where she'd been born. Along with her son and daughter, she traveled to Palestine where she became a cleaner in wealthy neighbourhoods.
Grossman's father was a bus driver, then a librarian, and it was through him that David – "a reading child" – was able to build up an interest in literature, which would later become his career. Grossman recalled, "He gave me many things, but what he mostly gave me was Sholem Aleichem." Sholem Aleichem, who was born in Ukraine, is one of the greatest writers in Yiddish, though he is now best known as the man whose stories were the inspiration for Fiddler on the Roof. At age 9, Grossman won a national competition on knowledge of the works of Sholem Aleichem, and subsequently worked as a child actor for the national radio. He continued working for Israel Broadcasting for nearly 25 years.
Grossman studied philosophy and theater at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. After university he started working in radio, where he'd once been a child actor. He eventually became an anchor on Kol Yisrael, Israel's national broadcasting service. In 1988 he was sacked for refusing to bury the news that the Palestinian leadership had declared its own state and conceded Israel's right to exist.
Grossman lives in Mevasseret Zion on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He is married to Michal Grossman, a child psychologist. They have three children, Jonathan, Ruth, and Uri. Uri was a tank-commander, killed in 2006 in Lebanon during the war between Israel and the Hizbollah. Uri's life was later celebrated in Grossman's book Falling Out of Time.
Initially supportive of Israel's action during the 2006 Israel-Hizbollah conflict on the grounds of self-defence, on August 10, 2006, he and fellow authors Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua held a press conference at which they strongly urged the government to agree to a ceasefire that would create the basis for a negotiated solution, saying: "We had a right to go to war. But things got complicated... I believe that there is more than one course of action available."
Two days later, his 20-year-old son Uri, a staff sergeant in the 401st armored brigade, was killed by an anti-tank missile shortly before the ceasefire. Grossman explained that the death of his son did not change his opposition to Israel's policy towards the Palestinians. Although Grossman had carefully avoided writing about politics, in his stories, if not his journalism, the death of his son prompted him to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in greater detail. This appeared in his 2008 book To The End of the Land.
Two months after his son's death, Grossman addressed a crowd of 100,000 Israelis who had gathered to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. He denounced Ehud Olmert's government for a failure of leadership and he argued that reaching out to the Palestinians was the best hope for progress in the region:
Of course I am grieving, but my pain is greater than my anger. I am in pain for this country and for what you [Olmert] and your friends are doing to it.
About his personal link to the war, Grossman said:
There were people who stereotyped me, who considered me this naive leftist who would never send his own children into the army, who didn't know what life was made of. I think those people were forced to realise that you can be very critical of Israel and yet still be an integral part of it; I speak as a reservist in the Israeli army myself.
In 2010 Grossman, his wife, and her family attended demonstrations against the spread of Israeli settlements. While attending weekly demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem against Jewish settlers taking over houses in Palestinian neighbourhoods, he was assaulted by police. When asked by a reporter for The Guardian about how a renowned writer could be beaten, he replied: "I don't know if they know me at all."
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