Walter Abish, daring writer who reflected on Germany, dies at 90

In December, they fled to Nice, France, then boarded a ship for Shanghai. There, after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese forc...


In December, they fled to Nice, France, then boarded a ship for Shanghai. There, after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese forces sent up to 18,000 Jewish immigrants to an area called Hongkew, which Mr Abish described as a ghetto.

He recalled that at the end of the Second World War, Allied warplanes attacked docks, warehouses and airfields in Shanghai and sometimes also civilian targets, including an open-air market in Hongkew, where 250 people were killed, including 30 Jews. A few weeks later, after the Japanese surrender, the U.S. Seventh Fleet sailed to Shanghai to begin what turned out to be a coasting, albeit relatively brief, interregnum before revolutionary Communist forces took control.

In the late 1940s, as the inevitability of Mao Zedong’s victory over the ruling Kuomintang became apparent, hostility towards foreigners increased. And in December 1948, the Abish family sailed for the newly created State of Israel, circumnavigating Africa and reaching Israel via the Mediterranean Sea to avoid a perilous passage through the Suez Canal.

He traces this period in his memoirs, a narrative plotted on two intertwined tracks with chapters titled “The Writer-to-Be” and “The Writer”.

“It’s a book about the making of a writer,” he observed in his interview with Tablet.

Mr Abish described his years in Israel as part of his literary development, recalling his time as a reluctant young conscript in an army tank unit and then as a librarian at the American Library, run by the defunct United States Information Agency.

“Is it inevitable that the future writer, variable, inconstant, even disloyal when it comes to obtaining an idea for a story, will consider his old friends and lovers as potential material for a future text”, he writes in a passage about a woman he called Allison. And, later, in a passage about a woman called Bilha, he asks: “Does the future writer consider love the ideal future text?

In 1957 the family moved again and he arrived in New York; he became an American citizen in 1960. During the following decade, he published a collection of poetry, “Duel Site” (1970), as well as “Alphabetical Africa”. He also published three collections of short stories: “Minds Meet” (1975), “In the Future Perfect” (1977) and “99: The New Meaning” (1990).

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Newsrust - US Top News: Walter Abish, daring writer who reflected on Germany, dies at 90
Walter Abish, daring writer who reflected on Germany, dies at 90
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