Oz, Amos

Oz, Amos
orig. Amos Klausner

born May 4, 1939, Jerusalem, Israel

Israeli novelist, short-story writer, and essayist.

A second-generation Israeli, Oz lived primarily on a kibbutz from the 1950s to the 1980s. He served in the Israeli Army (1957–60, 1967, and 1973) but later became a leading advocate of peace. His symbolic works
including Where the Jackals Howl, and Other Stories (1965); My Michael (1968), perhaps his best-known novel; and Black Box (1987)
reflect the conflicts in Israeli life.

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▪ 2006
 Israeli author Amos Oz added yet another branch to his impressive crown of laurels when on Aug. 28, 2005, he was awarded the Goethe Prize, one of Germany's top cultural honours. In 2004–05 alone, Oz was awarded more than half a dozen major literary prizes from organizations in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, and the United States; most of the awards were for his autobiographical Sipour al ahava vehoshekh (2002; A Tale of Love and Darkness, 2004). The novel, which culminated in the suicide of Oz's mother, was another example of his ability to interweave the complicated story of his family and his own youth with the story of Israel, the history of the Jewish people, and the Zionist movement.

      Oz was born Amos Klausner on May 4, 1939, in Jerusalem. At the age of 15, following his mother's suicide, he went to live in Kibbutz Hulda. There he changed his name to Oz (“strength”), finished high school, and remained as a kibbutz member for two decades. Following his army service (1958–61), he studied (1961–63) Hebrew literature and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1986 he moved with his wife and children to the southern town of Arad, in the Negev desert.

      Oz's first collection of short stories, Artzot hatan (1965; Where the Jackals Howl and Other Stories, 1981), received high praise from critics, and his popularity soared with the publication of his second novel, Michael shelli (1968; My Michael, 1972). He became one of the leading figures among the New Wave writers (who include Amalia Kahana-Carmon, A.B. Yehoshua, and Aharon Appelfeld) and the most popular author of his generation. From his earliest fiction, his writing was marked by a unique style, in which several different levels of meaning—psychological, sociological, political, and religious—are implicitly analogous to one another. My Michael was followed by seven more novels, among them Menuha nehona (1982; A Perfect Peace, 1985) and Kufsa sh'hora (1987; Black Box, 1988). His writings included two collections of novellas, Ad mavet (1971; Unto Death, 1975) and Har ha-etza h-ara'ah (1976; The Hill of Evil Counsel, 1978); a novel in verse, Oto ha-yam (1998; The Same Sea, 2001); and two collections of literary essays.

      Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Oz became active in the Israeli peace movement and with groups and organizations that advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He became a spokesman for the Peace Now movement upon its founding in 1977. Oz's numerous essays about Israeli politics and culture were collected in Be'or ha-tekhlet ha-aza (1979; Under This Blazing Light, 1995), Po va-sham be-eretz Israel (1982; In the Land of Israel, 1983), Mimordot ha-Levanon (1988; The Slopes of Lebanon, 1989), Kol ha-tikvot (1998; “All Our Hopes”), and Be'etzem yesh kan shte milhamot (2002; “But These Are Two Different Wars”).

      Oz's latest work, Pit'om be'omek ya-ya'ar (“Suddenly in the Depth of the Forest”), defined as “a modern fairy tale,” was published in 2005; the English version was scheduled for publication in 2006.

Avraham Balaban

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▪ Israeli author
original name  Amos Klausner  
born May 4, 1939, Jerusalem
 Israeli novelist, short-story writer, and essayist in whose works Israeli society is unapologetically scrutinized.

      Oz was educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the University of Oxford. He served in the Israeli army (1957–60, 1967, and 1973). After the Six-Day War in 1967, he became active in the Israeli peace movement and with organizations that advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition to writing, he worked as a part-time schoolteacher and labourer.

      Oz's symbolic, poetic novels reflect the splits and strains in Israeli culture. Locked in conflict are the traditions of intellect and the demands of the flesh, reality and fantasy, rural Zionism and the longing for European urbanity, and the values of the founding settlers and the perceptions of their skeptical offspring. Oz felt himself unable to share the optimistic outlook and ideological certainties of Israel's founding generation, and his writings present an ironic view of life in Israel.

      His works of fiction include Artsot ha-tan (1965; Where the Jackals Howl, and Other Stories), Mikhaʾel sheli (1968; My Michael), La-gaʿat ba-mayim, la-gaʿat ba-ruaḥ (1973; Touch the Water, Touch the Wind), Kufsah sheḥora (1987; Black Box), and Matsav ha-shelishi (1991; The Third State). Oto ha-yam (1999; The Same Sea) is a novel in verse. The memoir Sipur ʿal ahavah ve-ḥoshekh (2002; A Tale of Love and Darkness) drew wide critical acclaim.

      Oz was among the editors of Siaḥ loḥamim (1968; The Seventh Day), a collection of soldiers' reflections on the Six-Day War. His political essays are collected in such volumes as Be-or ha-tekhelet ha-ʿazah (1979; Under This Blazing Light) and Be-ʿetsem yesh kan shete milḥamot (2002; “But These Are Two Different Wars”). How to Cure a Fanatic (2006) is an English-language collection of two essays by Oz and an interview with him.

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Universalium. 2010.

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