TEL AVIV - Author and satirist Ephraim Kishon, one of Israel’s most prolific writers passed away Saturday night at his home in Switzerland at the age of 80.
Kishon apparently died of a heart attack. His body is due to be brought to Israel Monday where he will be laid to rest.
Kishon has written more than 50 prize-winning books, novels and plays and has five feature films to his credit.
Among his most prominent works are “Sallah Shabbati,” a comedy about the chaos of Israeli immigration and resettlement that introduced actor Chaim Topol (Fiddler on the Roof) to audiences worldwide; the “Blaumilch Canal” Kishon’s most outrageous feature, lampooning bureaucracy and the madness of everyday life in Israel; and “Policeman Azoulai.” about the misadventures of an aging Tel Aviv policeman.
Topol, Kishon’s close friend, told Ynetnews he found a play waiting for him on his return from a trip to China.
“He worked until the very last minute. He was a young man in spirit. He had many plans for the future, what more does one need?” he said.
Topol said despite the difficulty of loosing a friend, death is a part of life.
“I know he left us feeling good about himself. He was very happy to have finally received recognition in Israel.” Topol said, referring to the Israel Prize Kishon had received in 2002.
Ephraim Kishon (Ferenc Kishont) was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1924. After making aliya to Israel in 1949, he changed his name to Ephraim Kishon, by which he is known worldwide.
He began his writing career in Israel as a night editor on a Hungarian newspaper, after which he enrolled at an Ulpan where he devoted his time to studying Hebrew.
“I didn’t attack the Hebrew language out of joy, but out of desperation”, he said. “I had to save myself from the bitter fate of being branded an eternal immigrant.”
On completing his studies he began writing satire and offered his works to all the Israeli newspapers, which were mostly rejected. In 1951, the Davar newspaper was the first to publish the "Blaumilch Canal," Kishon also published his first book depicting a humorist account of life as a new immigrant in Israel.
“His Name Precedes Him,” was the first play to be performed by Habima theatre in 1953. Kishon’s works were translated into English and his book “Look Back Mrs Lot” was selected as the New York Times’ Book of the Month, with reviews comparing him to Shalom Aleichem and Mark Twain.
After establishing himself as a columnist, playwright and theater director, Kishon went into the film industry and proceeded to write the script for "Sallah Shabbati," without any prior film experience.
He was awarded the Golden Globe award three times for the best foreign language film, and was nominated twice for an Oscar.
In the 1970s his books, which were translated into several languages, became bestsellers throughout central Europe and his plays are still being performed internationally.
In his last years Kishon divided his time between Israel and Europe.
In 1993, he was awarded Germany’s highest citation for literature and in 2002 he was awarded the Israel Prize for his life work.