Text size

One of Israel's most important literary critics, Professor Gershon Shaked, died yesterday at the age of 77, following an operation at Sha'arei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem.

Shaked, who won the Israel Prize in 1993, is survived by his wife, Dr. Malka Shaked, two daughters and six grandchildren. His funeral will be held today at 11:30 A.M. at the Givat Shaul cemetery in Jerusalem.

Shaked was the cartographer of Hebrew literature: He examined the changes that Hebrew literature underwent over the past century from historical, social and cultural perspectives. He mapped local writings, defined generations of Israeli authors, shaped the literary canon and taught and influenced authors and literary critics. For years, Shaked has been considered the leading international authority on Israeli literature. He published more than 20 books and hundreds of articles.

Shaked was born in Vienna, as Gerhard Mendel, in 1929. His parents were illiterate. When he was nine, his father was arrested by the Nazis. At the age of 10, Shaked was sent to Israel on his own, and his parents followed several months later. He completed his secondary education at the Herzliya Gymnasium in Tel Aviv. In 1950, he began studies at the Hebrew University and in 1964, he was awarded his Ph.D. in Hebrew literature. He also studied German, English and French literature at the University of Zurich in 1964-65. During his academic career, he served as head of the Hebrew Literature Department at Hebrew University and head of the Theater Department at Tel Aviv University.

His major work is "Hebrew Narrative Fiction, 1880-1980," a five-volume set that he published between 1997 and 1998. For this research, he won the Bialik Prize in 1986 and the Israel Prize in 1993.

Another important book was "The new wave in Hebrew Literature" (1971), in which he pinpointed the new generation of Israeli writers of the 1960s, which included A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, Amalia Kahana-Carmon and Aharon Appelfeld. Shaked identified the subjects, styles and atmosphere shared by a generation of writers that he described as constituting a reaction to the generation of authors from the era of independence. This book became a standard in researching Israeli literature.

"He has been my most consistent, most thorough guide as an author," A.B. Yehoshua said of Shaked yesterday. "Even when he was critical, he was significant and important. He had a broad, historic outlook on Hebrew literature through all its generations, but he was also very much in touch with contemporary literature."