July 19, 2019

The Prophetic Legacy of Amos Oz

“Fair-eyed as David, rebellious as Absalom, eloquent as Solomon, preaching peace like Jeremiah, and braving tragedy like Job, Amos Oz embodied a biblical tale.

The most successful Israeli novelist beside S.Y. Agnon, Oz and his 33 books were a product of the tragedy that he only exposed at age 63, in his autobiography A Tale of Love and Darkness, which sold a million copies in 30 languages.

Oz denied this, but others couldn’t help concluding that his beloved and tormented mother’s suicide when he was 12 inspired the work that made him famous at 29, My Michael, whose heroine Hannah Greenbaum drifts away from her husband while fleeing to imaginary worlds.

Praised already then for his ability to freely roam the psyche of such a complex woman, Oz’s claim to fame soon proceeded from the psychic to the generational, and from there to the epochal.

GENERATIONALLY, Oz was a product of the kibbutz, once the wellspring and pride of Israel’s socialist elite, where he himself landed as a lonely teenager following his mother’s death, and where he lived into his forties and wrote his early novels.

Oz and his family left the kibbutz for Arad, whose desert air suited the asthma of Oz’s third child. Still, the kibbutz – in Oz’s case Hulda, outside Rehovot – was many of his works’ setting.”

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