Author(s): Amos Oz
Tragic, comic and incomparable: an autobiographical epic and a comedie humaine for our times, which is both the portrait of an artist and the story of the birth of a nation, spanning several generations and moving with them from Russia, Lithuania, the Ukraine, to Jerusalem. Love and darkness are just two of the powerful forces that run through Amos Oz's extraordinary, moving story. He takes us on a bold, seductive journey through his childhood and adolescence, a quixotic child's eye view along Jerusalem's wartorn streets in the 1940s and '50s, and into the infernal marriage of two kind, well-meaning people: his fussy, logical father, and his dreamy, romantic mother. Caught between them is one small boy with the weight of generations on his shoulders. And at the tragic heart of the tale is the suicide of his mother, when Amos was twelve-and-a-half years old. Soon after, still a gawky adolescent, he left home, changed his name and became a tractor driver on a kibbutz.'Jews go back to Palestine' urged the graffiti in 1930s Lithuania, so they went; then later the walls of Europe shouted 'Jews get out of Palestine'. Oz's story dives into 120 years of family history and paradox, the saga of a Jewish love-hate affair with Europe that sweeps from Vilna and Odessa, via Poland and Prague, to Israel. Those who stayed in Europe were murdered; those who escaped took the past with them. In search of the roots of his family tragedy, he uncovers the secrets and skeletons of four generations of Chekhovian characters in a Tolstoyan drama. The three sisters who got away; the old woman with a terrible fear of Levantine germs; the men who liked women, just a bit too much; cats in the classroom, bombs in the street, the dwarf in the department store; messianic kibbutzniks and self-important scholars; the night the UN said yes to Israel and his father cried; the day a priggish little Jewish boy tried - disastrously - to impress a Palestinian girl. Farce and heartbreak, history and humanity make up this magical portrait of the artist who saw the birth of a nation, and lived through its turbulent events as well as his own. As rich and glorious as a symphony, as immediate and personal as a child's confession, the story comes circling round to the heart of a small boy's darkness, and the unbearable moment that ends his tale but makes a writer of him. This is a memoir like no other, and one that cries out to be read and wept over.
Born in Jerusalem in 1939, Amos Oz is the internationally acclaimed author of many novels and essay collections, translated into 30 languages. He has received several international awards, including the Prix Femina, the Israel Prize and the Frankfurt Peace Prize. He lives in Arad, Israel.