Friday, December 14, 2012

Our December Author: Amos Oz



This month we are discussing Scenes from Village Life by the Israeli writer and peace advocate, Amos Oz. For basic biographical reference see his Wikipedia entry. If you've got some more time you might want to check out this 2004 New Yorker profile, The Spirit Level, by David Remnick. This 1996 Paris Review interview has some fun bits too,

INTERVIEWER:Does it ever snow in the desert? 
OZ: Oh yes, every two or three years. And then you should see the expression on the faces of the camels crossing the desert! That is when I understand the real meaning of the word bewilderment! But even without snow, it is bitterly cold in winter, a savage place at dawn, when stormy winds seem determined to sweep away the whole town into the desert. But walking alone knocks things into proportion. If later on I read in the morning papers that some politician has said this or that will never happen, I know that this or that is going to last forever, that the stones out there are laughing, that in this desert, which is unchanged for thousands of years, a politician’s never is like . . . a month? Six months? Thirty years? Completely insignificant.
Oz is so quotable, it's hard to know what to excerpt, so dive into these links for more worthy nuggets.

Turning to Scenes, check out the video from 92Y above and PRI's The World interviewed Oz about the Israel presented in the book,
The real Israel is a temperamental, hot-headed, passionate, noisy, argumentative society; very militant and it belongs in a Felini movie and not in an Ingmar Bergman film.
NPR also discussed the novel-in-stories with the author. In this recent interview from The Jewish Chronicle Oz talks about drawing inspiration from village life,
“I tend to think that every great literature is provincial. Chekhov, Garcia-Marquez, Faulkner and others all tend to write about small places. 
"I lived for 30 years of my life in a very small village of 500 people, but I learned so much about those 500 people. It was an education in human nature. I knew all the secrets and the gossip, I knew who was doing what with whom. If I had travelled 10 times around the world I still wouldn’t have learned nearly as much about people as I did in those 30 years.”
Finally, you may have heard about Oz' most recent book Jews and Words, which he wrote with his daughter, Fania Oz-Salzberger. NPR has an entertaining Scott Simon interview with the authors here and here's a bit of take-home wisdom courtesy of Aslan Media,
AM: What can we all learn from Jewish self-criticism?
Fania: That Jewish self-criticism is not only Jewish. It is universal. Many of the things described in our book, the mental curiosity, the irreverent reverence, the ability to laugh at oneself and one’s ancestors, while sometimes rather loving them – all this is universal. So many people, probably from every culture, share these things or aspire to them. The love of reading, the rise and rise of the printed word, which now commands almost all of our waking hours – all this is universal. We can critique what is dearest to us, or tease it, but still have a strong sense of belonging. This is a lesson the Jews might offer the world.
Amnesty International's concerns regarding Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories can be found here.

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