|Born||December 24, 1931|
|Notable awards||MacArthur Fellowship|
Abish was born to a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria to Adolph and Frieda (Rubin). At a young age, his family fled from the Nazis, traveling first to Italy and Nice before settling in Shanghai from 1940 to 1949. In 1949, they moved to Israel, where Abish served in the army and developed an interest in writing. He moved to the United States in 1957 and became an American citizen in 1960. Since 1975, Abish has taught at several eastern universities and colleges. Abish received the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1981 for his book How German Is It. He has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship, and sits on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions.
He served on the board of International PEN from 1982–1988. He was on the board of governors for the New York Foundation for the Arts. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1998.
Abish's work shows both imaginative and experimental elements. In Alphabetical Africa, for instance, the first chapter consists entirely of words beginning with the letter "A." In the second chapter, words beginning with "A" and "B" appear, and so on through the alphabet. In the Future Perfect is a collection of short stories where words are juxtaposed in unusual patterns.
Abish is married to Cecile Gelb, a photographer and sculptor.
- Duel Site – poetry, 1970
- Alphabetical Africa – novel, 1974
- Minds Meet – story collection, 1975
- In the Future Perfect – story collection, 1977
- How German Is It (Wie deutsch ist es) – novel, 1980
- 99: The New Meaning – story collection, 1990
- Eclipse Fever – novel, 1993
- Double Vision: A Self-Portrait – memoir, 2004
- 1972 – Fellow of New Jersey State Council on the Arts
- 1974 – Rose Isabel Williams Foundation grant
- 1977 – Ingram Merrill Foundation grant
- 1979 – Fellow of National Endowment for the Arts
- 1981 – Guggenheim fellowship
- 1981 – CAPS grant
- 1981 – PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
- 1985 – Fellow of National Endowment for the Arts How German Is It
- 1987 – Fellow of German Academic Exchange Service
- 1987 – MacArthur Fellows Program
- 1991 – American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award of Merit Medal for the Novel
- 1992 – Lila Wallace – Reader's Digest Fund fellowship
- Taub, Michael; Shatzky, Joel (1997). Contemporary Jewish-American Novelists: A Bio-critical Sourcebook. Greenwood. pp. 1–7. ISBN 978-0313294624.
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
- "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Walter Abish". www.gf.org. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
- "Walter Abish — MacArthur Foundation". www.macfound.org. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
- Contemporary Authors Online. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale. 2006. ISBN 978-0-7876-3995-2.
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