Gifted Israeli author, Amos Oz (born 1939), achieved international regard as a novelist and short story writer, as well as the author of political nonfiction.
Born in 1939 to well-read parents who had emigrated from Europe several years earlier, Amos Oz grew up in a working-class neighborhood of Jerusalem. He received his primary education in a modern religious school. Oz was eight years old when Israel was became an independent nation. When he was 12, his mother committed suicide. Three years later, he left his home, at the age of 15, and joined a kibbutz (collective farm) near Tel Aviv. It was at this young age that Oz replaced his family surname, Klausner, with one of his own making: the Hebrew word for strength, "Oz." As a young adult, he studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he specialized in literature and philosophy. By the mid-1970s Oz was married with two daughters, living and working on the kibbutz while continuing his fictional and non-fictional writing.
Early Works Receive Critical Acclaim
Oz began publishing short stories in the early 1960s. These were included in his first collection of stories, Where the Jackals Howl, which received immediate critical acclaim. In this collection Oz revealed himself as a master craftsman, one who probes the emotional depths of his characters.
Although the collective physical and social structure of the kibbutz are well defined and drawn in his stories, Oz concentrates mostly on the fate of the individuals, their drives, ambitions, and idiosyncrasies. The dividing line between the normal and the pathological is very narrow in much of Oz's fiction, as in one of his first novels, My Michael.
In Elsewhere, Perhaps and the collection of three stories in the book The Hill of Evil Counsel we encounter Israeli pioneers who are dedicated to the land and to the ideal of building a new productive life. On the other hand, we also find that members of the kibbutz passionately crave to return to their native land, even at the price of abandoning their families. In Elsewhere, Perhaps, the wife of one of the settlers leaves her husband and returns to Germany with her former lover. In The Hill of Evil Counsel, the protagonist escapes with a British admiral, dealing a shocking blow to her family. In both the novel and the three stories, Oz proves himself a keen observer of human nature. He reveals an acute awareness of the turbulent events in the years immediately preceding the establishment of the Israeli state, stressing their impact on the life, ideas, and actions of the characters.
The obsession with time surfaces in Oz's Late Love, whose protagonist, perceives his life-mission as warning of Soviet plans to invade Israel. While formerly he was a fanatical believer in Communism and a devotee of the Soviet system, he now transfers his fixation on Israel.
Delusion is the main force prompting the enigmatic Lord Guillaume de Touron in Crusade, to set out on his journey to conquer Jerusalem. The crusaders veer from acts of cruelty and complete depravity to yearnings for spiritual salvation. The journey ends with death, as Touron realizes that his men were consumed by the evil spirit within themselves. In these stories and his subsequent novel Touch the Water, Touch the Wind, Oz depicts the existential condition of man caught up in the cataclysmic events of World War II, the holocaust and in the highly charged post-war political/social milieu of the Soviet Union and Israel.
The kibbutz is again the setting for Perfect Peace. Here Oz deals with the age-old problem of the clash between generations, the gap between ideals and reality and the need to come to terms with a given social and political order. Personal conflicts are the underlying theme in the novel Black Box. Oz uses the 18th-and early-19th-century epistolatory form to illuminate in the novel the inner lives of the characters and the twists of fate that overtake them.
Peace Without Reconciliation
Although primarily known as an author of fiction, Oz became very politically involved in Israel in the late 1960s, handing out pamphlets that promoted peace with Israel's Arab neighbors. This was not a popular position in Israel at the time, and at one point charges of treason were brought against him. As Christopher Price wrote in the October 20, 1995 New Statesman & Society, Israel's Six-Day war caused Oz to develop "a deep aversion to extremism and fanaticism, which he saw breeding pain and death; and an equally passionate positive belief in compromise. "One never knows whether compromise will work," [Oz] insists, "but it is better than political and religious fanaticism. Political courage involves the ability and the imagination to realize that some causes are worthwhile whether or not the battle is won or lost in the end."
Oz's many essays have covered political topics as well as literary ones. He has written extensively about Israel's Arab and Palestinian conflicts, always advocating a position of peace without reconciliation, i.e. the fighting can stop even while the separate nations remain separate and opposed. First published in 1979 in Hebrew, Under This Blazing Light, a collection of essays from 1962-78, was translated into English and published in 1995. As Stanley Poss wrote in Magill Book Reviews, these essays "reflect on what it means to live in a nation of five million surrounded by 100 million enemies," and can be regarded as variations on Oz's recurring theme, "Wherever there is a clash between right and right, a value higher than right ought to prevail, and this value is life itself."
Oz wrote an autobiography titled Panther in the Basement, published in 1997. Another work, In the Land of Israel (1983), describes nationalism as the curse of mankind. In The Slopes of Lebanon (1989) Oz looks at Israel's invasion of Lebanon and its reluctance to grant Lebanon statehood, writing "If only good and righteous peoples, with a clean record, deserved self-determination, we would have to suspend, starting at midnight tonight, the sovereignty of three-quarters of the nations of the world."
In 1992 Oz was awarded the German Publishers Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech, titled Peace and Love and Compromise and reprinted in the February, 1993, Harper's Magazine, Oz stated "Whenever I find that I agree with myself 100 percent, I don't write a story; I write an angry article telling my government what to do (not that it listens). But if I find more than just one argument in me, more than just one voice, it sometimes happens that the different voices develop into characters and then I know that I am pregnant with a story." This way he has kept his expressly political writing separate from his works of fiction.
Author of Irony and Compassion
Throughout his career Oz's fiction has been noted for its compassion, humanism and insight into human nature, as well as for its occasional fantasia and irony. Unto Death (1975), Touch the Water, Touch the Wind (1974), Elsewhere, Perhaps (1973), and The Hill of Evil Counsel (1978) each carry the complexity of Oz's themes, style, and form. Oz also tends to explore the dark side of life, exposing human follies and anguish, often in a farcical, grotesque fashion. But Oz's novels are also imbued with humanistic concerns despite the sardonic stance. His humanism pervades all his writings, including his topical essays and critical works, as in his series of Israeli interviews In the Land of Israel.
Although fluent in English, Oz has always written in Hebrew. E. E. Goode in the April 15, 1991 US News & World Report wrote that Oz "sees the Hebrew language as a volcano in action, a fluid tool for exploring the cracks in the dream." By 1993 his various books had been translated into 26 languages, his place in Israeli and world literature secure.
Amos Oz's works in English include My Michael (1972); Elsewhere, Perhaps (1973); Touch the Water, Touch the Wind (1974); the novellas Unto Death, Crusade, and Late Love (1975); The Hill of Evil Counsel (1978); Where the Jackals Howl (1981); In the Land of Israel (1983); and Perfect Peace (1985). Critical reviews include Robert Alter, "New Israeli Fiction," Commentary (June 1969), and Eisig Silberschlag, "From Renaissance to Renaissance II," Hebrew Literature in the Land of Israel 1870-1970 (1977).
Oz, Amos, To Know a Woman (1991).
Oz, Amos, Israel, Palestine and Peace: Essays (1995).
Balaban, Avraham, Toward Language and Beyond: Language and Reality in the Prose of Amos Oz (1988).
Cohen, Joseph, Voices of Israel: Essays on and Interviews with Yehuda Amichai, A. B. Yehoshua, T. Carmi, Aharon Appelfeld, Amos Oz (1990). □
"Amos Oz." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/amos-oz
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Amos Oz, 1939–, Israeli writer, b. Jerusalem as Amos Klausner. As a teenager he changed his name to Oz, Hebrew for
A former kibbutz member, Israeli soldier, and schoolteacher, he is is one of Israel's major novelists. Written in Hebrew, richly atmospheric and often poetic, his fiction explores the conflicts and tensions in Israeli society, ranging from religious beliefs to the practical demands of modern life. His novels include My Michael (1968, tr. 1972), Touch the Water, Touch the Wind (1973, tr. 1974), To Know a Woman (1989, tr. 1991), Panther in the Basement (1995, tr. 1997), and The Same Sea (1999, tr. 2001), a blend of prose and poetry. He is also the author of several volumes of short stories and the novella Rhyming Life and Death (2007, tr. 2009). A collection of essays (1962–79) was published in translation as Under This Blazing Light (1995); he has also written other nonfiction works dealing with Israel's past and present and frequently reflecting his liberal Zionist views.
See his memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness (2003, tr. 2004); N. Ben-Dov, ed., The Amos Oz Reader (2009); studies by A. Balaban (1993) and Y. Mazor (2002).
"Oz, Amos." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oz-amos
"Oz, Amos." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved November 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oz-amos
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OZ, AMOS (1939– ), Israeli writer. Oz was born in Jerusalem, the son of Yehuda Arieh and Fanya Klausner. At the age of 14, after his mother's suicide, he went to live in Kibbutz Ḥuldah, where he finished high school and stayed on as a member for two decades. From 1986 he lived with his family in the southern town of Arad, in the Negev desert. Oz studied Hebrew literature and philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Oz's first collection, Arẓot ha-Tan (Where the Jackals Howl and Other Stories, 1981), appeared in 1965, followed a year later by his first novel, Makom Aḥer (Elsewhere, Perhaps, 1985). The short stories received high praise from critics, and his popularity soared with the publication of his second novel, Mikhael Sheli (1968; My Michael, 1972). Oz became one of the leading figures in the "New Wave" movement in the 1960s (other prominent writers in this group are Amalia *Kahana-Carmon, A.B. *Yehoshua, and Aharon *Appelfeld) and the most popular author of his generation. From his earliest fiction, his writing has been marked by a unique, recognizable style. The stories are constructed as concentric circles, focusing on a psychological conflict, a psychic drama. That drama, the struggle between the ego and its shadow, is typically the kernel of the story. Around this inner ring the narrative builds a family drama, which is a projection of the tensions within the psychic drama. Wider circles radiating from this dramatic center are society, landscape (the kibbutz and the jackals around it), and politics (the tensions with the Arabs). The outermost sphere is the divine one, manifesting the same contending forces found within the psychic drama. Although the religious element in Oz's work is usually camouflaged, it is one of its most important themes. Tensions between the different psychic forces are reflected in the struggle between the dull, humdrum, secure existence within society's borders and the vibrant, alluring, and destructive experiences that lie beyond those borders. These conflicts are manifest in Oz's subsequent work in the struggle between light and darkness, life and death, God and Satan, mind and body, man and woman, Jews and Arabs, culture and nature. Other collections of stories include Ad Mavet (1971; Unto Death, 1978), Har ha-Eẓah ha-Ra'ah (1976; The Hill of Evil Council, 1978). Among Oz's novels are Menuḥah Nekhonah (1982; A Perfect Peace, 1986), Kufsah Sheḥorah (1987; Black Box, 1989), Lada'at Ishah (1989; To Know a Woman, 1991). Typically, Oz's novels and novellas open with a clash between two sworn enemies (be they psychological, societal, or political), then progress toward a reconciliation of those opposites, so that previously antagonistic forces are seen as complementary, needing each other for their very existence. Thus the seemingly binary relations reveal themselves to be dialectical. The idea that the enemy is also one's brother can be found in Oz's early story "Before His Time," and throughout his oeuvre. It underlines the fact that, unlike S.Y. Agnon, A.B. Yehoshua, and many other Israeli authors who were influenced by Freud, Oz is a follower of Carl Gustav Jung. Jung's ideas are reflected in Oz's work in three principal areas. First, in the structure of the psyche: the ego is depicted as a weak and unstable element at the top of a pyramid whose main volume is the collective unconscious, the latter being the reservoir of primordial urges, creativity and supreme intelligence. Second, the major psychic processes portrayed in Oz's fiction are typically Jungian: the "self " is attained only when the protagonist is reconciled with the dark aspects of his personality; the "self " reveals the image of God in human beings; the "treasure hunt" represents the search for "self." Third, Jung's writing, and to a great extent his interpretations of the alchemists' texts, furnished Oz with a huge reservoir of symbols. Oz uses these symbols in conjunction with others taken from different mythological traditions (Christianity, Judaism, Greek mythology). Most of the mythological symbols employed by Oz are in keeping with Jung's interpretation of them. The psychic processes mentioned above, conveyed through typical Jungian symbols, form the core of most of Oz's stories and novels from his earliest writing.
Oz's texts can be read on many levels, which explains why they are popular despite their complex themes. Black Box is a case in point. The psychological content of the novel is camouflaged (the protagonists are implicitly characterized as "anima" and "animus" figures, and the novel as a whole is an examination of male-female relations). However, it was the overt social context (the tensions between Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, right wingers and leftists, etc.) that drew the attention of both readers and critics. These social aspects were underscored in the theater and film versions of the novel. Thus Oz's work is a unique example of a complex modern literary text that has also great appeal to the general public. Other novels by Oz include Ha-Maẓav ha-Shelishi (1991; Fima, 1993); Al Tagidi Laylah (1994; Don't Call It Night, 1996); Oto ha-Yam (1998; The Same Sea, 2001). Oz's first books were extolled by critics and scholars. Even though certain critics have argued that his later novels lack the creativity and originality of his earlier fiction, Oz's popularity in Israel has not diminished. His autobiographical novel Sippur al Ahava ve-Ḥoshekh (2002; A Tale of Love and Darkness, 2004) was enthusiastically received by critics and readers alike.
Since the Six-Day War in 1967, Oz has been active in the Israeli peace movement and with groups and organizations that advocate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has been a spokesman for the *Peace Now movement since its founding in 1977. His numerous essays about Israeli politics and culture were collected in the following books: Be-Or ha-Tekhelet ha-Azah (1979; Under This Blazing Light, 1996), Poh va-Sham be-Ereẓ Yisrael (1982; In the Land of Israel, 1984), Mimordot ha-Levanon (1988: The Slopes of Lebanon, 1990), Kol ha-Tikvot ("All Our Hopes," 1998), and Be'eẓem Yesh Kan Shetei Milḥamot ("But These are Two Different Wars," 2002). Oz also published books for young readers, including Sumkhi (1978; Soumchi, 1980) as well as two collections of literary essays: the first, Shetikat ha-Shamayim ("The Silence of Heaven," 1993; German translation 1998), discusses the works of S.Y. Agnon; the second is entitled Matḥilim Sippur (1996; Beginning a Story, 1998).
Oz is one of Israel's most popular novelists. His books have been translated into more than 30 languages. He has won several literary prizes in Israel (among them the Brenner Prize in 1976, the Bialik Prize in 1986, and the Israel Prize in 1998) as well as worldwide. He has been named Officer of Arts and Letters in France and in 1997 was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Legion d'Honneur. In 1992 he received the Frankfurt Peace Prize, in 2004 the Literature Prize of the German daily Die Welt, and in summer 2005 the prestigious German Goethe Prize. For detailed information concerning translations into various languages, see the ithl website at www.ithl.org.il. A bibliography of Amos Oz's works and translations (1965–2002) appeared in 2004.
N. Gertz, Amos Oz (Monograph, 1980); A. Balaban, Between God and Beast: An Examination of Amos Oz's Prose (1993); R. Kalman (ed.), Amos Oz – Bibliography 1984–1996 (1998); G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 5 (1998), 205–229; A. Komem and I. Ben-Mordechai (eds.), Sefer Amos Oz (2000); Y. Mazor, Somber Lust – The Art of Amos Oz (2002).
[Avraham Balaban (2nd ed.)]
"Oz, Amos." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oz-amos
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BORN: 1939, Jerusalem
GENRE: Fiction, nonfiction
Where the Jackals Howl, and Other Stories (1965)
Elsewhere, Perhaps (1966)
My Michael (1968)
Unto Death (1971)
A Perfect Peace (1983)
In his fiction and nonfiction alike, Israeli author Amos Oz describes a populace under emotional and physical siege and a society threatened by internal contradictions and contention. Immensely popular in his own country, Oz has also established an international reputation, with translations of his books appearing in more than fifteen languages.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Zionism, to the Right and to the Left Born into a family of right-wing Zionist supporters that included several writers and scholars, Oz grew up in a house that both eschewed religion (a tendency strengthened by his mother's suicide when Amos was twelve years old) and supported a strong and independent Jewish state. In this, Oz's background typifies one of the central quandaries of Jewishness in the modern world: a difficult blend of religious history and ethnic claims that makes identity a site of struggle. Partially in response to just this struggle, Oz left his native city of Jerusalem during the 1950s to join a kibbutz, or collective farm. The kibbutz movement in Israel was dedicated to communal Jewishness, such that many kibbutz members of that period owned no personal property at all; although distinctly a movement of the left, kibbutzim (the plural of kibbutz) were not Marxist in orientation, primarily because of their commitment to religious principles. In this sense, there was a continuity with his childhood, since Zionism (the desire for an independent Jewish nation-state) continued to play a large role in his life. Later, sent to study literature and philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Oz received his bachelor's degree in 1963 and returned to his kibbutz to concentrate on farming, teaching, and writing. In stories collected in Where the Jackals Howl, and Other Stories (1965), Oz uses the jackal as a symbol of forces that threaten the stability of an isolated kibbutz, both from outside its guarded perimeter and from within its domestic sphere. Although mildly received in Israel, this collection won praise in the United States for its accurate rendering of kibbutz life.
Personal Challenges to the Political With his novel My Michael (1968), Oz achieved popular success and established an international reputation as one of Israel's foremost authors. Set in Jerusalem during the 1950s, this work alternates between stark realism and romantic lyricism to relate excerpts from a diary that describes the ambivalent sexual fantasies of an unhappily married woman. While some Jewish nationalist reviewers regarded the book as a nearly seditious allegory of their country and its relationships with Arab Israelis, western critics compared My Michael to Gustave Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary for its restrained portrayal of an individual's private struggle against adverse social circumstances. Unto Death (1971), inspired by Oz's reaction to Israel's Six-Day War with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in 1967, consists of the novellas Late Love and Crusade. In addition to shifting the balance of power in the Middle East, the Six-Day War—precipitated in large part by Egyptian aggression, and begun with a “preemptive” attack by the Israelis—cemented a tradition of Arab-Israeli struggle in the region. Together with the 1973 Yom Kippur War, it has often served, within Israel, as a justification for oppression of Palestinian Arabs and, in the Arab world, as an incitement to destruction of the Isreali state altogether.
In Touch the Water, Touch the Wind (1973), Oz blends comic fantasy, allegory, and symbolism to chronicle the experiences of a Polish-Jewish mathematician from his internment in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany during World War II through the Six-Day War. Incorporating the protagonist's rise to world prominence and his reunion with his estranged wife with fantastical events, including the transformation of humans into animals, this novel garnered angry reactions from Israeli critics for attempting to deal with atrocities in comic or surrealistic terms. Critic Alfred Kazin, however, declared that Oz “is an immensely clever, subtle, and mischievous writer whose new book is a brilliant scenario of all Jewish experience of our day.” True Repose (1983), published in response to Israel's war with Lebanon, reflects Oz's dissatisfaction with his country's often violent response to differences with its neighbors. This novel concerns the decision of a young man to flee his confining existence in a kibbutz and seek suicidal escape in the Jordanian desert. Oz also began, long before this, to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palistinian conflict (the ongoing animosity and hostilities between a largely Jewish Israeli majority and a largely Muslim Palistinian minority in the state of Israel), a position that has made him less than popular with many Zionists inside and outside of Israel.
Oz's next novel, A Perfect Peace (1983), centers on domestic conflicts that result when the son of a Zionist founder rejects his family and life in a kibbutz to escape the constrictive ideologies of his ancestors. After a naïve but passionate young man who idealizes kibbutz existence joins the community and supplants the protagonist, Oz's hero shames his family by inviting his successor to share his wife and home before departing to seek his own identity in enemy territory.
The Unity of an Essay Versus the Plurality of aNovel Oz is also noted for his essays on political and literary topics. In the Land of Israel (1983) is a collection of interviews Oz conducted with Jewish and Arab Israelis from diverse social and political backgrounds. Originally published as a series of articles in the socialist newspaper Davar, these pieces, according to Robert Alter, “reflect a strenuous effort to go out into Israeli society and sound its depths.” Oz is also coeditor of the Israeli magazine Siach lochamium and has contributed articles to such journals as Encounter and Partisan Review.
Married and the father of three children, Oz continues to live and work at Kibbutz Hulda, and is a professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva, Israel. He also speaks and travels frequently, bringing his personal thoughts to television and lecture audiences in Israel and abroad. Describing his creative impulses, Oz told the New York Times: “Whenever I find myself in total agreement with myself, then I write an article—usually in rage—telling the government what to do. But when I detect hesitation, more than one inner voice, I discover in me the embryo of characters, the seeds of a novel.” His more recent work has included the novels The Silence of Heaven: Agnon's Fear of God (2000) and Suddenly in the Depth of the Forest (A Fable for All Ages) (2005), and the nonfiction How to Cure a Fanatic (2006).
Works in Literary Context
Writing exclusively in Hebrew, Oz has been widely praised for his use of a carefully modulated literary style that blends surrealistic fantasy, symbolism, and allegory. “As a seamstress who takes different pieces of cloth and sews them into a quilt, Amos Oz writes short pieces of fiction which together form a quilt in the reader's consciousness,” notes J. Justin Gustainis in Best Sellers, continuing. “Just as the quilt may be of many colors but still one garment, Oz's stories speak of many things but still pay homage to one central idea: universal redemption through suffering.”
The Kibbutz and the Family Unit The kibbutz provides Oz with a powerful symbol of the nation's aspirations, as well as a microcosm of the larger Jewish family in Israel, suffocatingly intimate and inescapable, yet united in defense against the hostile forces besieging its borders. New York Times Book Review contributor Robert Alter observes that nearly all of Oz's fiction “is informed by the same symbolic world picture: a hemmed-in cluster of fragile human habitations (the kibbutz, the state of Israel itself) surrounded by dark, menacing mountains where jackals howl and hostile aliens lurk.” According to Jewish Quarterly contributor Jacob Sonntag, the people of Oz's fiction “are part of the landscape, and the landscape is part of the reality from which there is no escape.” If the landscape is inescapable, the bonds of family also offer little relief. Oz's fiction addresses the generational conflicts that are particularly tense in modern Israel: conflicts often marked by a contrast between the bitter pragmatism of a younger generation and the increasingly desperate pragmatism of their elders.
The Conflicts of Zionism A central concern of Oz's fiction is the conflict between idealistic Zionism and the realities of life in a pluralistic society. Paul Zweig claims in the New York Times Book Review that when My Michael was published in Israel shortly after the Six-Day War, it proved “extremely disturbing to Israelis. At a time when their country had asserted control over its destiny as never before, Oz spoke of an interior life which Israel had not had time for, which it had paid no heed to, an interior life that contained a secret bond to the Asiatic world beyond its border.”
As a corollary to this, many of his sabra, or native-born Israeli, characters have decidedly ambivalent feelings towards the Arab population, especially Palestinians. Commentary essayist Ruth R. Wisse writes that in book after book, “Oz has taken the great myths with which modern Israel is associated—the noble experiment of the kibbutz, the reclamation of the soil, the wars against the British and the Arabs, the phoenix-like rise of the Jewish spirit out of the ashes of the Holocaust—and shown us their underside: bruised, dazed, and straying characters who move in an atmosphere of almost unalleviated depression.” A part of the bruisedness of these characters is in relation to a system of morality that, on the one hand, is guided by deeply felt ideals of communality and brotherhood and that, on the other, has served to justify the oppression of Palestinians for decades.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL CONTEMPORARIES
Oz's famous contemporaries include:
Arthur Miller (1915–2005): An American playwright famous for his plays—including The Crucible and Death of a Salesman—and for his personal life—his controversial politics and his marriage to Marilyn Monroe.
Günter Grass (1927–): A Nobel Prize–winning German playwright and author, Grass is a key figure in the magical realist movement. He was the subject of controversy in 2006 when he revealed his service with the Nazi Waffen-SS in the last months of World War II, in contradiction to earlier statements and to his leftist politics.
Moshe Dayan (1915–1981): Distinctive for his bald pate and black eyepatch, Dayan was a celebrated and controversial figure in the history of Israel. As minister of defense, he helped lead his country to victory in both the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War.
Anwar El Sadat (1918–1981): The Egyptian president who most radically altered Egypt's foreign and domestic policies, instituting a multiparty political system and signing the first Arab peace treaty with Israel. The latter action was directly responsible for his assassination at the hands of an Egyptian extremist.
Oliver North (1943–): An obscure U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, North was thrust into the public spotlight when he was implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan administration, which involved illegally trading arms to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages.
Pope John Paul II (1920–2005): The second-longest-reigning pope, the first Polish pope, and the first non-Italian pope in over four hundred years, John Paul II was one of the most successful and popular popes of the modern age. Upon his death, calls were raised by many theologians and laypeople for his immediate elevation to sainthood.
Internal Demons and Redemptive Humor “Daytime Israel makes a tremendous effort to create the impression of the determined, tough, simple, uncomplicated society ready to fight back, ready to hit back twice as hard, courageous and so on,” Oz told the Partisan Review. “Nocturnal Israel,” he continued, “is a refugee camp with more nightmares per square mile I guess than any other place in the world. Almost everyone has seen the devil.” The obsessions of “nocturnal Israel” fuel Oz's work, in which few psychic stones if any are left unturned—no matter what might be found beneath them. This is not to suggest, however, that Oz's work is unrelentingly somber or polemical. Indeed, many find that Oz's humor has a redemptive quality of its own.
Works in Critical Context
According to Judith Chernaik in the Times Literary Supplement, Oz writes books that are “indispensable reading for anyone who wishes to understand …life in Israel, the ideology that sustains it, and the passions that drive its people.” In a New Republic assessment of the author's talents, Ian Sanders notes: “Amos Oz is an extraordinarily gifted Israeli novelist who delights his readers with both verbal brilliance and the depiction of eternal struggles—between flesh and spirit, fantasy and reality, Jew and Gentile…. His carefully reconstructed worlds are invariably transformed into symbolic landscapes, vast arenas where primeval forces clash.” Times Literary Supplement contributor and novelist A. S. Byatt observes that in his works on Israel, Oz “can write with delicate realism about small lives, or tell fables about large issues, but his writing, even in translation, gains vitality simply from his subject matter.” And New York Review of Books reviewer D. J. Enright calls Oz Israel's “most persuasive spokesman to the outside world, the literary part of it at least.”
My Michael My Michael, a novel about the psychological disintegration of a young Israeli housewife, was Oz's first work translated and published in English. New Republic contributor Lesley Hazleton calls the book “a brilliant and evocative portrait of a woman slowly giving way to schizoid withdrawal” and “a superb achievement, … the best novel to come out of Israel to date.” In Modern Fiction Studies, Hana Wirth-Nesher expresses the view that Oz uses his alienated protagonist “to depict the isolation and fear that many Israelis feel partially as a country in a state of siege and partially as a small enclave of Western culture in a vast area of cultures and landscapes unlike what they have known.” Alter praises My Michael for managing “to remain so private, so fundamentally apolitical in its concerns, even as it puts to use the most portentous political materials.” Disturbing though many found it, My Michael was a best seller in Israel; it established Oz's reputation among his fellow Israelis and gave him entrée into the international world of letters.
Portraits of Israel Critics find much to praise in Oz's portraits of the struggling nation of Israel. “Mr. Oz's words, his sensuous prose and indelible imagery, the people he flings living onto his pages, evoke a cauldron of sentiments at the boil; yet his human vision is capacious enough to contain the destruction and hope for peace,” writes Richard R. Lingeman in the New York Times. “He has caught a welter of fears, curses and dreams at a watershed moment in history, when an uneasy, restless waiting gave way to an upsurge of violence, of fearsome consequences. The power of his art fuses historical fact and symbol; he makes the ancient stones of Jerusalem speak, and the desert beyond a place of jackals and miracles.” In the Saturday Review, Alfred Kazin states that Oz's effect on him is always to make him realize “how little we know about what goes on inside the Israeli head…. To the unusually sensitive and humorous mind of Amos Oz, the real theme of Jewish history—especially in Israel—is unreality. When, and how can a Jew attain reality in the Promised Land, actually touch the water, touch the wind?”
COMMON HUMAN EXPERIENCE
Other works to address the theme of redemption through suffering include:
The Brothers Karamazov (1880), a novel by Fyodor Dos-toyevsky. One of the central themes of Dostoyevsky's last novel is having to experience misery on the way to redemption, as personified by such characters as Dmitri, Grushenka, and Katerina.
David Copperfield (1850), a novel by Charles Dickens. Throughout Dickens's coming-of-age novel, several characters choose to repent for previous misdeeds through hard work and good deeds.
The Star Wars movies (1977–1983, 1999–2005), a series of films directed by George Lucas. The central character of the six-film arc is Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, whose descent into evil is reversed by his son's love. Ultimately Anakin dies to save his son, thus redeeming himself.
Responses to Literature
- Amos Oz often addresses the animosity that sometimes arises between Jews and Gentiles. Select one of his works in which this occurs and, in a short essay, trace the origin of the animosity and how it develops into open hatred.
- Despite the fact that Oz's stories center on Israel, they have a universal quality. Analyze how Oz is able to evoke this universality. What techniques does he use in his descriptions of characters and locations that makes them seem to be “more than they are”?
- Research the kibbutz movement in Israel: its history, its goals, its current status. Apply what you have learned to Oz's depictions of the kibbutz. With a group of your classmates who have read the same Oz stories, analyze the camaraderie and purpose of a kibbutz in Oz's fiction.
- Amos Oz has taken an active role in promoting peace in the Middle East, meeting Palestinian leaders in an effort to hammer out a workable peace plan, performing what he calls the “gruntwork of peace.” Write a paragraph describing how you think Oz defines the gruntwork of peace. Why is it so critical to the peace process?
Balaban, Avraham.Toward Language and Beyond: Language and Reality in the Prose of Amos Oz. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1988.
Balaban, Avraham.Between God and Beast: An Examination of Amos Oz's Prose. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1993.
Mazor, Yair, and Weinberger-Rotman, Marganit. Somber Lust: The Art of Amos Oz. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.
Enright, D. J. “Jews, Have Pity.” New York Review of Books. September 26, 1985.
Leaf, Hayim. “Oz, Amos (1939–).” Encyclopedia of World Biography. Ed. Suzanne M. Bourgoin. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998.
Wirth-Nesher, Hana. “The Modern Jewish Novel and the City: Kafka, Roth, and Oz.” Modern Fiction Studies, 24 (Spring 1978).
Wisse, Ruth R. “An Unheralded Zionist.” Commentary (June, 2007).
"Oz, Amos." Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of World Literature. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oz-amos-1
"Oz, Amos." Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of World Literature. . Retrieved November 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oz-amos-1
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Nationality: Israeli. Born: Amos Klausner, Jerusalem, 4 May 1939. Education: Hebrew University, Jerusalem, B.A. in Hebrew literature and philosophy 1965; St. Cross College, Oxford University, M.A. 1970. Military Service: Israeli Army, 1957-60; fought as reserve soldier in tank corps in Sinai, 1967, in Golan Heights, 1973. Family: Married Nily Zuckerman in 1960; two daughters and one son. Career: Since 1986 professor and Agnon Chair of Hebrew Literature, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel. Visiting fellow, St. Cross College, Oxford University, 1969-70; writer-in-residence, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1975 and 1990, University of California, Berkeley, 1980, Colorado College, 1984-85, Boston University, 1987, Princeton University, 1997, and St. Anne's College, Oxford University, 1998. Editor, Siach lochamium; contributor to various periodicals, including Davar (Israel), Encounter, and Partisan Review. Since 1977 cofounder and representative, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now). Member, Kibbutz Hulda, beginning in 1954. Awards: Holon prize for literature, 1965; Israel-American Cultural Foundation award, 1968; B'nai B'rith literary award, 1973; Brenner prize, 1976, for The Hill of Evil Counsel; Ze'ev award for children's books, 1978; Bernstein prize, 1983; Bialik prize, 1986; Prix Fémina Étranger, 1988, for Black Box; Wingate prize, 1988; German Publishers Association international peace prize, 1992; Israel prize in literature, 1998. Honorary doctorates: Hebrew Union College, 1988; Western New England College, 1988; Tel Aviv University, 1992. Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 1984; French Cross of the Knight of the Légion d'Honneur, 1997. Member: Academy of the Hebrew Language, 1991. Agent: Mrs. D. Owen, 28 Narrow Street, London E.14, England. Address: c/o Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel.
Makom aher. 1966; as Elsewhere, Perhaps, 1973.
Mikha'el sheli. 1968; as My Michael, 1972.
'Ad mavet (two novellas). 1971; as Unto Death, 1975.
La-ga'at ba-mayim, la-ga'at ba-ruah. 1973; as Touch the Water, Touch the Wind, 1974.
Har ha-'etsah ha-ra'ah: Sheloshah sipurim (three novellas). 1976; as The Hill of Evil Counsel, 1978.
Menuhah nekhonah. 1982; as A Perfect Peace, 1985.
Kufsah shehorah. 1986; as Black Box, 1988.
La-da'at Ishah. 1989; as To Know a Woman, 1991.
Ha-matsav ha-shelishi [The Third Condition]. 1991; as Fima, 1993.
Al tagidi lailah. 1994; as Don't Call It Night, 1995.
Panter ba-martef. 1995; as Panther in the Basement, 1997.
Oto ha-yam. 1999; as The Same Sea, 2001.
Anashim aherim: Mivhar [Different People]. 1974.
Artsot ha-tan: Sipurim. 1965; as Where the Jackals Howl and Other Stories, 1981.
Soumchi (for children). 1978; translated as Soumchi, 1980.
Be-or ha-tekhelet ha-'azah: ma'amarim u-reshimot. 1979; as Under This Blazing Light: Essays, 1995.
Poh va-sham be-Erets-Yisra'el bi-setav 1982 (essays). 1983; as In the Land of Israel, 1983.
Mi-mordot ha-Levanon: ma'amarim u-reshimot (essays). 1987; as The Slopes of Lebanon, 1989.
Shetikat ha-shamayim: 'Agnon mishtomem 'al Elohim (literary criticism). 1993; as The Silence of Heaven: Agnon's Fear of God, 2000.
Israel, Palestine, and Peace: Essays. 1994.
Mathilim sipur. 1996; as The Story Begins: Essays on Literature, 1999.
Kol ha-tikvot: Mahashavot 'al zehut Yisra'elit [All Our Hopes] (essays). 1998.
Editor, with Richard Flantz, and author of introduction, Until Daybreak: Stories from the Kibbutz. 1984.*
Michael Sheli, 1975 (as My Michael, 1975), from the novel Mikha'el Sheli; Kufsah shehorah (Black Box), 1994.
'Amos 'Oz—bibliyografyah, 1953-1981: 'Im mivhar hashlamot 'ad kayits 1983 by Joseph Jerushalmi, 1984; 'Amos 'Oz—bibliyografyah: La-shanim 1984-1996 by Ruti Kalman, 1998.
"The Jackal and the Other Place: The Stories of Oz" by Leon I. Yudkin, in Journal of Semitic Studies (England), 23, 1978, pp. 330-42; "On Oz: Under the Blazing Light" by Dov Vardi, in Modern Hebrew Literature (Israel), 5(4), 1979, pp. 37-40; "The Beast Within: Women in Amos Oz's Early Fiction," in Modern Judaism, 4(3), October 1984, pp. 311-21, and Israeli Mythogynies: Women in Contemporary Hebrew Fiction, 1987, both by Esther Fuchs; "Amos Oz in Arad: A Profile" by Shuli Barzilai, in Southern Humanities Review, 21(1), Winter 1987; Voices of Israel, Essays on and Interviews with Yehuda Amichai, A. B. Yehoshua, T. Carmi, Aharon Applefeld, and Amos Oz by Joseph Cohen, 1990; "Language and Reality in the Prose of Amos Oz," in Modern Language Studies, 20(2), Spring 1990, pp. 79-97, and Between God and Beast: An Examination of Amos Oz's Prose, 1993, both by Avraham Balaban; "Portrait: Amos Oz, Israel's Willful Conscience," in U.S. News & World Report, 110 (14), 15 April 1991; "Amos Oz" by Eleanor Wachtel, in Queen's Quarterly (Canada), 98(2), Summer 1991; The Tensions between Zionism's Messianism and Liberal Humanitarianism in the Works of Amos Oz (dissertation) by Emily Dembitz Katz, Hampshire College, 1992; "Amos Oz and Izhak Ben Ner: The Image of Woman in Literary Works, and as Transvalued in Film Adaptations" by Nurith Gertz, in Israeli Writers Consider the "Outsider," edited by Leon I. Yudkin, 1993; "The Epistolary Politics of Amos Oz's Black Box " by Joshua M. Getz and Thomas O. Beebee, in Prooftexts, 18(1), January 1998, pp. 45-65; Amos Oz Writing the Israeli Paradox by Rebecca Steffens and others, 2000.* * *
One of Israel's most popular writers and a major figure in contemporary Hebrew culture, Amos Oz is a member of what is often referred to as the state generation of writers (Dor Hamedinah ). This is the second generation of native-born Israeli writers (A.B. Yehoshua is another), who began to write and publish in the late 1950s and the early 1960s and who continue to dominate Israeli literature. In many ways Oz typifies the transition from mid-twentieth century to contemporary Hebrew writing. Born in Jerusalem in 1939 and a member of the kibbutz Hulda from 1954, Oz grew up against the backdrop of the early ideals of the Jewish yishuv (settlement) in Palestine and the nascent post-1948 state. Informing both the public consciousness and the literature was the figure of the new Hebrew in his new/ancient homeland. Indeed, the literature was intended not only to reflect this new reality but also to help create it. Therefore, Hebrew writing from the early decades of the twentieth century through the late 1950s directly repudiated diasporic (European) Jewish history. It laid to rest the old Jewish victim and replaced him with the independent warrior-farmer who worked the land, battled its enemies, and built the new Jewish nation. This nation, it was expected, would realize the aspirations for a communal, national existence for Jews without reverting to outmoded traditions of religious belief and worship. The gender bias of the pronoun "him" in the above description is intended. This was a fiction written primarily by men, and it concerned itself largely with heroic males involved in traditional areas of male endeavor in a world defined by public rather than by private action. Oz's name, meaning "potency" or "vigor," is itself a reflection of these tendencies within the prestate and early state period. Oz replaced his father's diasporic name, Klausner, marking the son's shift into Israeli/Hebrew heroism.
Born before the war of independence, Oz, like others of his generation, imbibed these national goals as expressed in the press, in the ideology of the youth movement, and in the budding literature. Coming to his maturity after the establishment of the state of Israel, however, Oz did not experience nationhood as an event still to be achieved, as sufficiently precarious so as to require constant protection by its defenders and constructors. Furthermore, he lived through the series of both dramatic and mundane events that marked the transformation from yishuv to statehood. This included the influx of Jewish refugees and survivors from decimated Europe, who represented just that population of old Jews that the state of Israel had imagined itself as replacing. It was the Adolf Eichmann trial in the early 1960s that put the Holocaust center stage in the national consciousness and made it available as a subject for Israeli fiction, a fact that was reinforced, albeit also transformed, by the Six-Day War. This war had seemed to many a second Auschwitz in the making. That Israel achieved a stunning victory defused some of the shame attached to the Diaspora. It also inaugurated the new reality of a politically and territorially powerful Jewish state, presumably even less in need of being defended by its contemporary population and perhaps requiring just the opposite of the old heroic stance, the recovery of some of the traditional European principles of Jewish humanism and humility.
Like other writers of his generation, Oz simultaneously participated in the national myths of the first half of the twentieth century and stepped back from them as the new reality of Israel asserted itself. In particular he rejected the nationalistic goals of a politically motivated fiction intended to realize an as yet unattained Zionist ideal and began to return Hebrew literature to its nineteenth-century origins in the more fraught and personal experience of individuals caught in the crosscurrents of, on the one hand, national aspirations and events and, on the other, private emotions and desires. These were the issues that had also characterized Hebrew literature (the writings of Joseph Haim Brenner, for example) during the early decades of the prestate yishuv. Thus, the bulk of Oz's writings, including his single Holocaust text, Touch the Water, Touch the Wind, published in Hebrew in 1973 and in an English translation by Nicholas de Lange in 1974, are withdrawals from the didacticism and straightforward social realism of the more popular Israeli fiction of the 1930s and 1940s. Instead, his writings evoke impressionistically, sometimes surrealistically, the inner dynamics of the human mind and heart as his protagonists, often autobiographically informed, strive toward a heroism that can never be realized and that, could it be attained, would likely be barren or, worse, psychologically and ethically oppressive. For as Oz suggests in his more political writings (In the Land of Israel, for example), not only have the internal dynamics of Jewish reality changed since the inception of the state, so, too, have Israel's international relations, including, especially after 1967, its relations with its Palestinian neighbors. The pursuit of peace both as a legacy of the Jews' European past and as a response to its immediately political present is a leitmotif of many of Oz's fictional works, including Touch the Water, Touch the Wind.
See the essay on Touch the Water, Touch the Wind.
"Oz, Amos." Reference Guide to Holocaust Literature. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oz-amos-0
"Oz, Amos." Reference Guide to Holocaust Literature. . Retrieved November 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oz-amos-0
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
Nationality: Israeli. Born: Jerusalem, 4 May 1939. Education: Hebrew University, Jerusalem, B.A. in Hebrew literature and philosophy 1963. Military Service: Served in the Israeli Army, 1957-60; fought as reserve soldier in tank corps in Sinai, 1967, and in the Golan Heights, 1973. Family: Married Nily Zuckerman in 1960; two daughters and one son. Career: Teacher of literature and philosophy, Hulda High School, Kibuts Hulda, and Regional High School, Givat Brenner, 1963-86; also tractor driver, youth instructor, Kibuts Hulda; visiting fellow, St. Cross College, Oxford, 1969-70; writer-in-residence or visiting professor, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1975, University of California, Berkeley, 1980, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, 1984-85, Boston University, 1987, and Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1990; professor of Hebrew literature, Ben Gurion University, Beersheva, since 1987; visiting professor, Princeton University, 1997; visiting professor, St. Anne's College, 1998. Lives in Arad. Awards: Holon prize, 1965; Israel-American Cultural Foundation award, 1968; B'nai B'rith award, 1973; Brenner prize, 1976; Ze'ev award for childrens' books, 1978; Bernstein prize, 1983; Bialik prize, 1986; H. H. Wingate award, 1988; Prix Femina Étranger (France), 1988; German Publishers' Union international peace prize, 1992. Honorary doctorate: Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1988; Western New England College, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1988; Tel Aviv University, 1992. Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), 1984. Member: Catalan Academy of the Mediterranean, Barcelona, 1989, and Academy of Hebrew Language, 1991; French Cross of the Knight of the Legion d'Honneur, 1997.
Artsot hatan. 1965; as Where the Jackals Howl, and Other Stories, 1981.
Ahavah me'ucheret (novellas). 1971; as Unto Death, 1975.
Anashim acherim [Different People]. 1974.
Har ha'etsah hara'ah (novellas). 1976; as The Hill of Evil Counsel, 1978.
Makom acher. 1966; as Elsewhere, Perhaps, 1973.
Micha'el sheli. 1968; as My Michael, 1972.
Laga'at bamayim, laga'at baruach. 1973; as Touch the Water, Touch the Wind, 1974.
Menuchah nechonah. 1982; as A Perfect Peace, 1985.
Kufsah shechorah. 1987; as Black Box, 1988.
Lada'at ishah. 1989; as To Know a Woman, 1991.
Hamatsav hashelishiy [The Third Condition]. 1991.
Al Tadidi Laila. 1994; as Don't Call It Night, 1995.
Panter Bamartef. 1995; as Panther in the Basement, 1997.
Soumchi (story; for children). 1978; translated as Soumchi, 1980.
Be'or hakelet he'azah [Under This Blazing Light] (essays). 1979.
Po vesham b'eretz Yisra'el (essays). 1983; as In the Land of Israel, 1983.
Mimordot haLevanon (essays). 1987; as The Slopes of Lebanon, 1989.
Mat'hilim Sipur. 1996; as The Story Begins, n.d.
Editor, with Richard Flantz, Until Daybreak: Stories from the Kibbutz. 1984.*
"On Oz: Under the Blazing Light" by Dov Vardi, in Modern Hebrew Literature 5(4), 1979; "The Jackal and the Other Place: The Stories of Oz" by Leon I. Yudkin, in his 1948 and After: Aspects of Israeli Fiction, 1984; "An Interview with Oz" by Anita Susan Grossman, in Partisan Review 53(3), 1986; "The Mythic Pattern in the Fiction of Oz" by Avraham Balaban, and " My Michael—from Jerusalem to Hollywood via the Red Desert" by Nurith Gertz, both in Modern Hebrew Literature in English Translation, edited by Leon I. Yudkin, 1987; "Oz in Arad: A Profile" by Shuli Barzilai, in Southern Humanities Review 21(1), 1987; "Oz: The Lack of Conscience" by Esther Fuchs, in Israeli Mythogynies: Women in Contemporary Hebrew Fiction, 1987; "Oz: Off the Reservation" by Chaim Chertok, in his We Are All Close: Conversations with Israeli Writers, 1989, in The Arab in Israeli Literature by Gila Ramras-Rauch, 1989, in Voices of Israel by Joseph Cohen, 1990; "Oz" (interview) by Eleanor Wachtel, in Queens Quarterly 98(2), 1991; Writing and Being by Nadine Gordimer, 1995.* * *
Amos Oz published his first short story in 1962 and three years later published Where the Jackals Howl, and Other Stories (Artsot hatan), eight tales about life on a kibbutz. Of these "Upon This Evil Earth" is a reworking of the biblical story of Jephthah, who, promising God that he will sacrifice the first thing he meets upon his return from his victory over the Ammonites, is first greeted by his only daughter. The forlorn father must contend with this bitter irony. In "Nomad and Viper" Geula, a middle-aged unmarried woman living on a kibbutz, comes upon a Bedouin. Warned against his kind, she is both repulsed and fascinated. He is courteous, even courtly, and they smoke together. When he starts to pray, she plies him with inappropriate questions, not realizing that it is sinful to interrupt a Muslim at prayer. Because he rushes off, she reconstructs the reality of their encounter to assuage her thwarted desires. She imagines that he wished to have sex with her, for which she initially calls for revenge not only against him but against all of "them." She later regrets such feelings and even wonders about going to him.
The jackals of the collection's title represent forces both outside and inside the kibbutz that seek to destroy it. Recurring in Oz's later works, the animal symbolizes threats to Israel's existence. This volume provoked considerable critical comment, some of it negative, because it empathically presented the "other," who before that time had not been so treated to any extent in Israeli literature. Since then Oz's well-known stance of seeking political accommodation with Palestinians has made both him and his writings a target for right-wing political and religious ideologues.
A later work, "The Trappist Monastery," draws from Oz's experience as a soldier in the tank corps in both the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars. Loud and bearlike, the prankster-soldier Itshe loves the beautiful Bruria. Kirsch, a weak, ineffective sick bay orderly who longs to go on a military mission with Itshe, is Bruria's rival for the soldier. Kirsch lies to Itshe, saying that Bruria has gone off to Jerusalem with someone else. A frenzied trip in a jeep to find her is a foray into the heart of darkness, during which the truck breaks down close to the enemy border. In the blackness the men see the outline of a Trappist monastery whose inhabitants observe permanent silence, thereby avoiding language, which, they believe, creates lies and deception. The glib Kirsch initially is delighted with Itshe's growing discomfort with the silence. Eventually, however, he is nauseated by his hero's terror, a reversal of the David and Goliath archetypes conjured up earlier in the story.
The two novellas in Unto Death (Ahavah me'ucheret) and the three in The Hill of Evil Counsel (Har ha'etsah hara'ah) are Oz's best works of short fiction. The former treats the theme of self-deception. In both works the chief characters are unable to achieve the laudable goals they seek because their quest is based on delusions and lies that end up destroying them. In "Crusade," set in 1096 C.E., the French nobleman Guillaume of Touron sets off with the high-minded intention of freeing Jerusalem from "the infidel," when, in fact, he leaves for pressing personal and financial reasons. On the way he and his men murder many Jews. He eventually goes mad and dies, possibly a suicide, and most of the others kill one another until, finally, only nine continue on their journey to an undetermined otherworldly realm. The disparity between the knights' pious religious language and their horrific deeds underscores the moral emptiness of their undertaking.
"Late Love," set in modern Israel, is an extended interior monologue by the slovenly, unappealing Shraga Unger, an old Russian émigré who lectures on Russian Jewry at various kibbutzim. Thinking himself redundant, he feels that he is being edged out of his position by people who have no further use for him. Living in the past and unable to cope with the present, he sits alone in his filthy room, overtaken by terror and panic, longing to be loved, waiting to die.
The three stories in The Hill of Evil Counsel—"Mr. Levi," "Longing," and "The Hill of Evil Counsel"—are set in Jerusalem shortly after World War II and just prior to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The works are interrelated through the character of the young boy Uri, who in "Mr. Levi" loses his childhood idealism and his trust of those adults who encourage him in his vehemently anti-British attitudes. When the mysterious Mr. Levi arrives, Uri is told a lie—that Mr. Levi is his uncle. Moreover, Uri must say nothing about him to anyone. Levi spends a single night at Uri's home. When the next day Uri asks where Mr. Levi has gone, his parents meticulously avoid all talk of the man, as if to deny that anyone had been there at all. Horrified, Uri realizes their lie and betrayal.
"Longing" consists of a series of eight letters written by Dr. Emanuel Nussbaum, a prim, weak-willed doctor who is dying of cancer, to Dr. Hermine Oswald, an aggressive, self-assured psychologist who has left Palestine for the United States. Nussbaum recalls their meeting, their affair, her departure, and the longing he feels at having lost her. He describes the daily events in the neighborhood, which reflect Zionist longings for independence; his own physical deterioration, which provokes his longing for good health; and his growing affection for Uri, whom he comes to look upon as his and Hermine's secret son and in whom he invests all of his hopes for Israel's future. The doctor is also pleased with Uri's return of affection. This is one of Oz's most poignant and affective works.
Some features of Oz's short fiction—the destructiveness of anti-Semitism on both the hated and the hater, reality versus unreality, personal needs versus national agendas—are worked out in further detail and with greater intricacy and depth in his various novels. His works, whether short or long, show Oz to be one of Israel's world-class writers of fiction.
See the essay on "The Hill of Evil Counsel."
"Oz, Amos." Reference Guide to Short Fiction. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oz-amos
"Oz, Amos." Reference Guide to Short Fiction. . Retrieved November 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/oz-amos