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.