Sholem Asch, Celebrated Jewish Novelist, Dies Suddenly in London

Sholem Asch, most celebrated Jewish author of the age, whose latter years were involved in controversies over his novels dealing with early Christianity and who has been living in Israel since last year, died here early this morning following a brain hemmorhage. He was 77.

Mr. Asch and his wife arrived here from Israel about three weeks ago for a three-month stay with their daughter. His death was sudden. Friends who spent the day with him yesterday sad he had been in good spirits and with no signs of the illness which hospitalized him in Israel for several weeks last spring. At the time of his death, he was engaged in writing a novel on Biblical patriarchs.

The funeral will take place Friday. It will start with services at the West London Synagogue, a Reform house of worship. He will be buried at the Golders Green Jewish cemetery.

Mr. Asch and his wife had been guests last Friday of Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Elath and Mrs. Elath. During that visit the novelist spoke of the great happiness he had found living in Israel, and that he had discovered a peace of mind in the Jewish State which he had not known in his many years of wandering through the world.

He told the envoy that he regretted he had not settled in Israel when he was young and spoke of plans for a book about Israel, particularly its youth among whom, he said, he had found emotions and idealism rare anywhere in the world. Mr. Elath went today to the Asch home to convey personally the condolences of the Government of Israel and his own sympathy.

Mr. Asch became a controversial figure in Jewish life during the ’30s when, after a large number of successful novels on Jewish life, he published “The Nazarene,” a story of the life of Jesus. The controversy deepened when he followed this with “Mary” and “The Apostle.” Explaining his writings about early Christianity, Mr. Asch said he was trying to build a bridge between the Jewish and Christian faiths.

By far the most prolific and widely known Yiddish writer of the first half of the 20th Century, Mr. Asch wrote novels, short stories, essays and plays. All his work was written in Yiddish and subsequently translated into English, Hebrew, French, German, Russian and other languages. He settled in the United States in 1914 and subsequently became an American citizen. He was for many years a member of the staff of the Jewish Daily Forward in New York. He was also an indefatigable collector of Jewish art and ceremonial objects.

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