The Amos Oz Reader

Amos Oz; Nicholas de Lange, trans.; Nitza Ben-Dov, ed.
  • Review
By – January 16, 2012

Amos Oz turns 70 this year, but no spe­cial occa­sion is need­ed to revis­it the works of this mas­ter. His fic­tion and non-fic­tion alike are won­der­ful­ly craft­ed, con­stant­ly informed by Oz’s end­less­ly fer­tile imag­i­na­tion and his excep­tion­al sym­pa­thy for the vari­eties of human experience. 

These nine­teen excerpts form a nar­ra­tive of their own, grouped around four themes: the kib­butz, Jerusalem, Israel, and auto­bi­og­ra­phy. Like all great lit­er­a­ture, they find the uni­ver­sal in the par­tic­u­lar. Neb­bish­es with mes­si­ah com­plex­es, kib­butzniks liv­ing on a lit­er­al and metaphor­i­cal fron­tier, young lovers, old Euro­pean émi­grés, and the oth­er char­ac­ters who inhab­it these sto­ries are all vivid and some­how famil­iar, how­ev­er remote their par­tic­u­lars may be from one’s own experience. 

Oz’s deeply felt kin­ship with human beings has prompt­ed him to speak out on polit­i­cal mat­ters. His pur­pose, how­ev­er, is not to for­mu­late poli­cies and prin­ci­ples. As he reflects, I have called for com­pro­mise, ground­ed nei­ther in prin­ci­ples nor even per­haps in justice…because I have seen that who­ev­er seeks absolute and total jus­tice is seek­ing death.” His his­tor­i­cal novel­la Cru­sade, excerpt­ed in this anthol­o­gy, exem­pli­fies that dread of the dogmatic. 

Where a polit­i­cal dis­course may insis­tent­ly demand an encounter with the Oth­er,” Amos Oz finds a deep and sub­tle human plea­sure” in imag­in­ing oth­er human beings. This col­lec­tion con­veys that plea­sure on every page. For new­com­ers it is a won­der­ful intro­duc­tion to his work, and for long-time fans it is a reminder of why we fell in love with this author in the first place. 

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