Death of prolific playwright Israel Horovitz

In the past, famous readers praised the “ferocity” of his pen. For example, the Franco-Romanian star Eugène Ionesco, in his time, gave Israel Horovitz the stature of a bad boy of dramatic writing: “Our sweet thug from America”, he wrote. Others, theater critics, referred to him as the spiritual son of Edward Albee or the successor to Arthur Miller. Samuel Beckett and Laurent Terzieff, for their part, were very interested in this extremely Francophile son of a Massachusetts truck driver, who became a painter of bitter feelings and, later, the best-selling author of the Indian seeks the Bronx (1987).

It was a long time ago. When the modernity of the theater undoubtedly went more through that of its text. Long before Release, among others, sees in his works a “Corpse of an old theater”. Already in the 90s, the obsolete ax seemed to have fallen. None of the somewhat thrilling directors of the past thirty decades seem to have taken a serious interest in him.

Popular successes

Today that we learn of his death in New York, from cancer, at age 81, let us remember that others, however, have never shared the diagnosis. And that they are very numerous. They officiate most of the time (that is to say not at the moment) in the paunchy armchairs of private Parisian theaters or in the padded rooms of the off-Broadway. They made Horovitz, in the absence of a memorable author, the “most performed living playwright in France”.

Read alsoIsrael Horovitz, renowned playwright and off the radar

Around thirty film scripts to his credit, including Strawberries and blood (jury prize in 1970 at the Cannes Film Festival) or My Old Lady, but also 70 plays, some translated into thirty languages, which won popular successes for Al Pacino in the 70s, then for Jane Birkin in the 90s, but also caused a little embarrassment to Emmanuelle Devos and Pierre Arditi when, at the end of 2017, the actors were preparing to take the stage in Somewhere in this life at the Edouard-VII theater (directed by Bernard Murat) just as the accusations of sexual assault fell against the septuagenarian writer.

Sexual violence

In 2017, in the wake of the Weinstein affair and the MeToo wave, the New York Times had indeed published a detailed investigation where nine women – among many others who testified to the newspaper but wished to remain anonymous – accused the playwright with their face uncovered. All described sexual violence against them by the one who was their mentor, their employer or their landlord, while most of them were not 20 years old at the time of the alleged offenses, which dates back to a few months. or over thirty years.

One of them even denounced the rape he allegedly inflicted on her at the age of 19, when she was the ex-girlfriend of one of her sons, Adam Horovitz – who became a famous musician with his band, the trio Beastie Boys. He had sided with the women who accused his father, while the playwright responded to the accusations with “Apologies with all his heart”, while claiming to keep “A memory diverges from some of the reported situations”. After these revelations, Release had published a powerful tribune signed by one of these women, French lawyer Frédérique Giffard. But the affair had scarcely found any echo in the press here, and Horovitz’s plays continued to be staged and toured successfully in France until recent months.


Julien Gester

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Ève Beauvallet

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