Obituary: Hampstead academic Leon Yudkin published 13 books in distinguished career

Leon Yudkin

Leon Yudkin - Credit: Archant

The sudden death of distinguished Hampstead academic Leon Yudkin put paid to his plans to lecture in South Africa and speak at a conference in Germany.

It also prevented him from witnessing the publication of the latest of his 13 books, Fiction Derailed, a comparison of Israeli, French and German literature which includes appraisals of the extremes of expression found in Germany after the First World War.

Mr Yudkin, 73, who lived in Finchley Road, was the youngest of a Jewish family’s four children and the only son. His early years were spent in Northampton, to which the family was evacuated at the beginning of the Second World War.

The family returned to London after the war and Mr Yudkin was educated from an early age at Carmel College in Oxfordshire.

He went on to gain both a BA and MA from University College London’s department of Hebrew and Semitic studies.

While researching for his MA, he also wrote synopses of several Shakespeare plays including King Lear and Macbeth.

His first job was at the University of South Africa in Johannesburg, where he taught from 1964 to 1966. It was there that he met his wife, Mickey.

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After the couple married, he took up a post at Manchester University in the department of Near Eastern studies and lived in Manchester until 1978, after which he commuted there from London.

In 1996 he joined the department of Hebrew and Jewish studies at University College London, having been awarded the degree of doctor of literature, which was presented to him by Princess Anne, the previous year.

This was shortly before the publication of his eighth book, A Home Within: Varieties of Jewish Expression in Modern Fiction, which focused on themes in French literature, Kafka and Prague and the Arab/Jewish conflict in Israeli literature.

It was this passionate interest in the interweaving of history and writers’ reactions to it which led him to explore the relationship between literature and public policy, a premise central to his book, Israel: The Vision of a State and its Literature, published in 2005.

Mr Yudkin lectured extensively all over the world. In Perth, Western Australia, for example, he won the Distinguished Visitor award and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee he was Scholar in Residence. He was also on the board of the trilingual journal Reeh in Paris.

Away from academia, he loved cricket, cats and classical music.

Leon Yudkin was born on 8 September, 1939, and died on June 8, 2013. He is survived by his wife.