Hanoch Bartov, 83, Wins Israel Prize for Literature

Hanoch Bartov is the winner of the 2010 Israel Prize in literature, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar announced this week - proving, the 83-year-old Bartov told Haaretz, "that there is life after death."

The judges noted his status as a veteran writer representing the generation that fought for Israeli independence. Over six decades, they noted, Bartov has produced an abundance of writings, including short stories, novels, plays, biographies and essays. In all these genres, they said, his work has kept pace with the major experiences of the state and its citizens in the 20th century, with an emphasis on Zionist activity.

"Bartov is the creator of a variety of master works, each one different from the other, including 'Everyone Had Six Wings,' and 'Whose Little Boy Are You?' and each one illuminating a significant junction in the history of Israeli society," the judges wrote. "In his book 'Dado,' Bartov told the story of the Yom Kippur War, revealing special sensitivity to the complexity of Jewish-Israeli identity and formulating an original position uniquely his."

The prize committee is headed by Yehuda Friedlander, a professor at Bar-Ilan University who specializes in Jewish literature, and the decision was announced Tuesday.

"The prize is scientific proof that there is life after death," Bartov told Haaretz. He said if he had received it 40 years ago, "when I should have," he would have been bowled over.

"At my age I am pleased, but it's a little late," he said. "I am glad that my life's work has finally been acknowledged. My first story was published in 1945 when I was 19, a soldier in the British army in Europe."

Bartov, whose work has been translated into English, French, Spanish, Russian and Greek, has already won several literary prizes, including the Agnon and Bialik prizes.

Hanoch Bartov, who Hebraicized his name from Helfgott, was born in Petah Tikva on August 13, 1926, to parents who emigrated from Poland. He started working as a diamond welder and polisher when he was 15, to help support his family. He enlisted in the British army in 1943, at 17, serving in the Jewish Brigade in Palestine, and in Italy and the Low Countries.

After World War II he studied history, sociology and the demographics of the Jewish people at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Bartov fought in the War of Independence, and lived for four years on Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh, where he worked as a farmhand and teacher. Then he moved to Tel Aviv, where he still lives.