Grigory Yaakov Kanovich is one of the most prominent modern Jewish writers, winner of Lithuania National prize in Art and Culture for 2014 for .
Kanovich was born into a traditional Jewish family in the Lithuanian town of Jonava on June 18, 1929. Together with his parents he fled war-stricken Lithuania and spent years in exile in Kazakhstan and the Ural Mountains.
In 1945 the family returned to Vilnius. Here, in 1953, Grigory graduated from Vilnius State University with a degree in Slavic studies.
In 1948 he published his first book of poetry.
The first autobiographical novella to be published in the Soviet Union in post-war years was “I am Looking at the Stars” by Grigory Kanovich (1959). The novella received positive reviews and was highly endorsed by the contemporary Russian literary critic Konstantin Paustovsky.
Kanovich has written more than ten novels – a virtual epic saga – dealing with the vicissitudes of the history of Eastern European Jewry from the 19th century to the present day. Among them: a novel trilogy “Candles in the Wind,” novels “Fools’ Tears and Prayers,”
“ Smile Upon Us, Lord," “A Kid for Two Pennies,” “There is No Paradise for Slaves,” “Don’t Turn your Face from Death,” “The Jewish Park,” “The Rustle of Fallen Trees,” “The Devil’s Spell” and "Shtetl Romance."
His books have been translated into twelve languages, among them English, Lithuanian, German, Hebrew, French, Czech, Polish, Bulgarian, Hungarian, and others. More than 1.5 million copies of his books have been printed.
Author of many screen scripts, Kanovich has collaborated with R. Vabalas (“Go, Go, Rub-a-dub!”), Vytautas Žalakevičius (“Ave Vita”), Almantas Grikevičius, Algimantas Araminas and other prominent Lithuanian film directors.
Grigory Kanovich has also translated into Russian many Lithuanian literary classics – “Forest of the Gods“ and “The Fate of the Dawn” by B.Sruoga, “The Highways of the Dawn” by B. Radzevičius, “The Time of the Emptying of Homesteads” by Jonas Avyžius, and others.
Kanovich is the author of almost twenty stage plays. Among the most well known in Lithuania and abroad are his adaptation of Ch. Aitmatov’s novel “The Day Lasts Longer Than a Hundred Years” staged by director Eimuntas Nekrošius at the Vilnius State Youth Theatre, and “Smile Upon Us, Lord” directed by Rimas Tuminas at the State Small Theatre of Vilnius. (The author of the play based on two novels by Kanovich (“Smile Upon Us, Lord” and “A Kid for Two Farthings”) was A. Grikevičius). The latter performance was awarded the major prize of the international theatre festival Baltiiskii Dom. In 1994 Lithuanian theatre critics named “Smile Upon Us, Lord” the best theatre work of the season.
The written works of Grigory Kanovich have earned the author a number of awards in Lithuania and Israel, including the Lithuanian Government Award. His books have been nominated for the international Booker Prize more than once. In 1989 the Reform Movement of Lithuania nominated the writer as a candidate for deputy to the last Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. In that position Kanovich initiated a letter of caution about the threat of racism and anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, which was signed by 200 deputies and handed to Mikhail Gorbachev. Kanovich also gave a series of lectures in the U.S. and Canada promoting the idea of Lithuanian independence.
Grigory Kanovich is the recipient of the illustrious Medal of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas and Grand Cross of Commader of the Order for Merits to Lithuania.
Grigory Kanovich was declaed a citizen of honor (2013) of his hometown Jonava.
Between 1989 and 1993 Kanovich served as Chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania.
Since 1993 the writer has lived in Israel. He was a member of the PEN club in both Israel and Russia.
Kanovich was married and has two sons – Dmitry and Sergey. Most of his novels were edited by his wife Olga.
Kanovich passed away at his home on 20th of January, 2023. He was burried in Jerusalem on Mount of Olives.