I read Oz’s obituary recently in which his literary work was described as outstanding. Having an interest in Jewish history I eagerly opened the pages of his memoir/family biography and enjoyed the first chapters quite a lot but less so the ones that followed. The main reason of my growing disappointment is that Oz did, in fact, possess a remarkable ability to describe the minutiae that surrounded him when he was growing up in Lithuania and later in Palestine (Israel) in the mid-1940s, i.e., the landscape, his room, his toys, his family’s garden, his parents and friends, etc., but he does so ad nauseum: lines and lines of adjectival words and phrases that seem to go on needlessly, in my opinion. His writing is also repetitive so that when you get to page 200, he is still relating his memories of when he was 5 like what he had done in his earlier pages.
The most important thing I learned was the diversity of Jews in Israel in the 1940’s, not only in terms of where they had emigrated from (Lithuania, Russia, etc.) but also their political view of the world, along with their recognition, in the early 1940’s, of the sinister disappearance of friends and relatives in Nazi occupied territories, losses that slowly turned into a verifiable holocaust. The housing conditions of Oz’s parents and friends in Jerusalem during the war also caught my eye as did his claims that pre-WWII Jew emigres lived like church mice and were largely writers of various kinds including poets, memoirists, historians, analysts of the contemporary scene, etc., whose literary work happened at the end of the day, by candlelight or oil lamp light if necessary.
first 100 pages are interesting, then it becomes a litany of name dropping and unrelated anecdotes about people that only someone from Israel would know. Too bad the author is so self-absorbed that he could not write a memoire that would be of interest to people outside his own country.
NOT WHAT I EXPECTED. JUST A RAMBLING DESCRIPTION OF ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE THE AUTHOR HAS KNOWN.
This family saga tells the story of the author's childhood in a rundown suburb of Jerusalem during the period of Israel's formation and the subsequent turbulence. Peopled with a colourful array of characters--most poignantly his artistic mother who committed suicide when he was twelve--this memoir puts a human face on a continuing conflict.
An amazing eloquent novel by an amazing writer.
This is probably one of the best books I've read. Childhood, history, land, emotions: everything connected
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