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Orpaz Averbuch, Yitzhak

ORPAZ AVERBUCH, YITZHAK (1923– ), Israeli writer. Orpaz was born in Zinkov, in the former Soviet Union. At the age of 17 he reached Ereẓ Israel and joined a group called Yas'ur in the settlement of Magdiel. In 1942 he learned about the death of his parents and sister in the Holocaust, and he then joined the British army in Europe. Upon his return to Ereẓ Israel in 1946, he worked as a diamond polisher and shortly thereafter took part as an artillery officer in the War of Independence (1948). His literary career began in 1949, when he had his first story published in the military journal Ba-Maḥaneh. In order to read his story on the radio he was asked, typically for that time, to change his last Diaspora-sounding name – Averbuch – to the Hebrew one, Orpaz.

Orpaz studied philosophy and Hebrew literature at Tel Aviv University, and after serving 13 years in the Israeli Army, he became a night editor in the Al ha-Mishmar daily newspaper. His first collection of stories, Isbei Pere (Wild Grass), appeared in 1959 and may be considered as the nucleus for his novel, Or be'ad Or (1962). During these years his writing was naïve, influenced by the Socialist Realism genre.

In 1964 he published his novella Mot Lisanda ("The Death of Lysanda"), a dramatic political shift from the naïve style to symbolic writing. In the article "Impresiyya al ha-Sippur ha-Nisyoni" (1965; "Impression on the Experimental Story"), Orpaz underlines three major features: breaking away from narrative continuity, narrative naiveté and moral message. The stories Ẓed ha-Ẓeviyah (1966), the Mot Lysanda, Nemalim ("Ants," 1963), Madregah Ẓarah (1972), and the stories of Ir she-Ein ba Mistor (1973) reflect these features. The novel Masa Daniel ("Daniel's Trials," 1969), set against the Six-Day-War, links materialistic reality and historical, social relevance. Bayit le-Adam Eḥad (1975) turns to the form of an autobiographical, confessional journal. Orpaz gives an intimate testimony, interweaving personal trauma – the death of his nephew in the Yom Kippur War – and the national one. "For me the Yom Kippur War was a shock and a catalyst mixed together," Orpaz maintains. The author goes back to the world of Jewish symbols and to Yiddish, his mother tongue. Consequently, in 1982 Orpaz added his former surname to the Hebrew one. By doing so he underlined his Jewish identity. At 56, Orpaz left Israel for the first time. His encounter with the Diaspora, a world lost forever, is reflected in the stories of Reḥov ha-Tomojna (1979), which describes a journey to a mythical childhood in a miraculous street. The novels Bayit le-Adam Eḥad, Ha-Gevirah (1983) and Ha-Elem (1984) constitute the Tel Aviv trilogy (Maḥzor Ataliyah), in which Orpaz highlights the tensions between Israeli and Jewish identity.

The novel Ha-Kalah ha-Nitẓḥit ("Eternal Bride," 1987) highlights mystical elements from the Jewish world. Orpaz confronts Judaism with Christianity throughout history, expressing his longing for the Jewish world. In the 1990s Orpaz went back to look at Israeli reality. The collections Ahavot Ketanot, Terufim Ketanim (1992), and Laylah be-Santa Poalina (1997) reflect this tendency.

Orpaz published a book of poems, Liẓlo'aḥ et ha-Me'ah ("Cruising the Century," 1983), and a philosophical essay, Ha-Ẓalyan ha-ḥiloni (1982), which constitutes the spiritual, poetic infrastructure of his writing. Orpaz's heroes are religious pilgrims who go on a secular journey, yearning for existential values.

Orpaz was awarded the Bialik Prize (1986), the Prime Minister's Award (2004), and the Israel Prize (2005). Many of his stories and novels have been translated into various languages. These include The Death of Lysanda (1970), and translations into French of The Eternal Bride (1991) and A Narrow Stair (1993).


H. Barzel, in: Moznayim, 42 (1976), 119–126; R. Furstenberg, in: Modern Hebrew Literature 5:3 (1979), 12–15; O. Bartana, in: Akhshav, 51–54 (1987), 142–157; O. Bartana, in: Apiryon, 16–17 (1990), 26–31; G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 5 (1998), 147–158; H. Zemiri, in: Dimmui, 19 (2001), 105–112.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.