Nathan Shaham - Gili Eliyahu - February 2012
Prolific author Nathan Shaham at home in Beit Alfa yesterday. Photo by Gili Eliyahu
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Nathan Shaham, 87, playwright and author of more than 55 books, will receive this year’s Israel Prize for Hebrew Literature and Poetry. Shaham has already received the prestigious Shlonsky Award, the Bialik Award, and Acum Award for lifetime achievement.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced the decision yesterday.

The prize jury called Shaham one of the outstanding authors of Israel’s generation of founders and noted the “lively and rich” style of his plays, fiction and nonfiction works. The jury cited the intelligence, emotion and imagination of Shaham’s writing and his ability to draw on the sources of the Hebrew language on all levels. Shaham is particularly skilled in portraying those involved in arts and culture in Israel, the jury said, adding, “his books are rich in ideas that are expressed in a clear and exciting manner.”

Shaham was born in Tel Aviv in 1925. The family home also served as the offices of Kituvim, the nonconformist, semimonthly literary journal edited by his father, the author Eliezer Steinman. Shaham joined the Palmach − the elite strike force of the Haganah, the pre-state underground Jewish militia − in 1942 and served there until it was disbanded, after the state was established.

Shaham’s plays have been translated into many languages and have been performed all over the world. Many of his novels, including “The Rosendorf Quartet,” “Bone to the Bone” and “Journey in the Land of Israel,” have been translated into English.

Shamam, who has variously served as editor-in-chief of Sifriat Poalim Publishing House, as Israeli cultural attache in New York and as deputy chairman of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, has been a member of Kibbutz Beit Alfa since 1945. He worked as a farmer there for 30 years and served three terms as kibbutz secretary.