Celebrated Czech scribe and Holocaust survivor Arnost Lustig died of lung cancer Feb. 26, leaving behind a legacy of novels, many adapted for the screen, including “Dita Sax,” “A Prayer for Katerina Horovitzova” and “Darkness Casts No Shadow.” He was 84.
Born to a Jewish family in 1926, Lustig was imprisoned during WWII at Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Buchenwald but escaped from a transport to Dachau after the train’s engine was hit by an American bomber.
Much of his literary work was influenced by his experiences during the war, employing rich, laconic and wry tales of survival and guilt. After participating in the Prague uprising against the Nazis in May 1945, Lustig studied journalism, then covered the Arab-Israeli war in 1948.
Later he was a reporter and director of Czechoslovak Radio, an editor of the youth magazine Mlady Svet and screenwriter for Barrandov studios.
After the Soviet-led crackdown on his Czech homeland in 1968, he emigrated to Israel and the U.S, where he became a lecturer at American U. in Washington, DC. Following the end of communism in Czechoslovakia, he returned home to become editor of the Czech edition of Playboy. He later worked with the Archa Theater in Prague and continued to write.
He recently played a role in the Czech hit romancer “You Kiss Like God” and appeared in several documentaries from 2000 to 2009, including Amir Bar-Lev’s offbeat “Fighter,” in which he revisited Theresienstadt with fellow survivor Jan Weiner.
He won the international Franz Kafka Prize in 2008, and his 2000 novel “Lovely Green Eyes” was nommed for a Pulitzer Prize in 2003.