The Eulogizer: Brazilian novelist, journalist on hospice, Haim overlooked again


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at Read previous columns here.

Moacyr Scliar, 73, Brazilian author

Moacyr Scliar, a respected and honored Brazilian writer who some believe had a book plagiarized in the award-winning novel “Life of Pi,” died Feb. 27 at 73.

Scliar was a lifetime member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and his novel, “The Centaur in the Garden,” was included among the 100 Greatest Works of Modern Jewish Literature by The National Yiddish Book Center.

Scliar’s 1980 novella “Max and the Cats” is the story of a man fleeing the Nazis who is shipwrecked and finds himself alone in a dinghy with a jaguar. Author Yann Martel said he drew heavy inspiration for “Life of Pi” from the Scliar work, but the Brazilian press was indignant and accused Martel of copying Scliar’s work.

Scliar’s work focused on Jewish identity in the Diaspora and particularly in Brazil. He also was identified with the country’s “gauchos,” the Latin American equivalent of cowboys.

In his acceptance speech to the Brazilian Academy, Scliar spoke about the “long journey” that had brought him to that prestigious institution, which began with the Jewish settlement of Brazil’s far south Rio Grande do Sul. He said the Jewish settlers, who came from shtetl Europe, did not have experience working the land, especially in a region of scarce resources, and moved into towns, where they became carpenters, tailors and street vendors.

“It was a hard life … many shortcomings, but offset by the community spirit, the family cohesion,” he said.

Scliar said families gathered nightly and told stories, often about their first experiences of Brazil, which “enchanted me, awoke in me the desire to tell stories — but to tell them in writing.”

Brazilian writer Adriano Silva wrote that Scliar was an inspiration and support to him in his early years of writing, and that he was “almost frightened” by the quality of Scliar’s writing. In his written appreciation of Scliar, Silva urged people to “rediscover — or discover for the first time … the irony, the succinctness, the absurd, the fantastic” and the “friendly unpretentiousness” of Scliar’s literature.

Marilyn Henry on hospice care

Marilyn Henry, a journalist and author with expertise in German Holocaust reparations, died March 1 at the age of 58. Her obituary on JTA is here

But you should also take a look at a moving and important column she wrote last year for The Jerusalem Post on her decision to forego aggressive cancer treatments and turn herself over to hospice care in the months before her death.

“Seeing no rosy future, I chose to focus on the quality of my life rather than the amount of time I might gain with treatment," Henry wrote. "For me, this means registering for a hospice when the time comes. … I have been an advocate of quality of life for the dying since my mother was in a hospice program 25 years ago, and I am greedy for all the services a hospice can offer, for as long as it can offer them.”

Actor Corey Haim snubbed again

One of the prominent 2010 Jewish deaths not reported by The Eulogizer in our year-end roundup — and a miss we were called on by several readers — was that of actor Corey Haim at age 38. We are mentioning it today because Haim’s death was snubbed by the Motion Picture Academy at the Oscars on Sunday in its annual montage of performers who passed away in the previous year, about one month after the same thing happened at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

We note those omissions to make up for our own.

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