Death of the Author: Israeli writer Amir Gutfreund passes away at age 52

Haaretz and The Times of Israel both pay tribute to Israeli author Amir Gutfreund, who passed away in late November after a battle with cancer, at the age of 52. Gutfreund is best known for his book Our Holocaust, narrated with humor and sensitivity from the perspective of two children of Holocaust survivors. Our Holocaust was translated into English, French and German.

In 2003, Gutfreund was the recipient of the Sapir Prize, Israel’s equivalent of the Man Booker Prize, for his story collection The Shoreline Mansions. Gutfreund donated a significant portion of the 150,000 NIS prize to a nonprofit organization focused on aiding foreign workers in Israel, stating his legacy as a child of Holocaust survivors has granted him “sensitivity to people without rights, defenseless and hopeless.”

Gutfreund was also the screenwriter for the Israeli TV show “Hostages,” purchased by CBS and BBC4, which produced American and British versions of the show.

The Times of Israel also talks to Jessica Cohen, Gutfreund’s translator into English, about her initial reaction to Our Holocaust, which she first encountered while browsing in an Israeli bookstore: “I thought it was incredible. Even ten years ago there was a feeling of what could you possibly read about the Holocaust that hadn’t been written, but his was really, really different.”

Cohen also talks about the unique challenges of translating the book, which include a child’s narrative and multiple voices, and characterizes the writer as opinionated about and invested in the translation, describing a back-and-forth exchange which included hundreds of emails.

Cohen describes Gutfreund as a “genuine, caring man. No matter what he was going through, he wanted to know how we were.”

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