Amos Oz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Amos Oz
עמוס עוז
Amos Oz by Kubik.JPG
Oz in 2005
BornAmos Klausner
(1939-05-04) May 4, 1939 (age 74)
Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine
OccupationWriter, Novelist and Journalist
Notable award(s)
Spouse(s)Nily Oz-Zuckerman
Jump to: navigation, search
Amos Oz
עמוס עוז
Amos Oz by Kubik.JPG
Oz in 2005
BornAmos Klausner
(1939-05-04) May 4, 1939 (age 74)
Jerusalem, Mandatory Palestine
OccupationWriter, Novelist and Journalist
Notable award(s)
Spouse(s)Nily Oz-Zuckerman

Amos Oz (Hebrew: עמוס עוז‎) (born May 4, 1939, birth name Amos Klausner) is an Israeli writer, novelist, journalist and intellectual. He is also a professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba.

Since 1967, he has been a prominent advocate and major cultural voice of a three state solution, often called two-state solution, (Israel, Jordan, and a third state) to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[1] Oz's work has been published in some 41 languages, including Arabic, in 35 countries. He has received many honours and awards, among them the Legion of Honour of France, the Goethe Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award in Literature, the Heinrich Heine Prize and the Israel Prize. In 2007, a selection from the Chinese translation of A Tale of Love and Darkness was the first work of modern Hebrew literature to appear in an official Chinese textbook.

Early life[edit]

Oz was born in Jerusalem in 1939, where he grew up at No. 18 Amos Street in the Kerem Avraham neighborhood.

His parents, Yehuda Arieh Klausner and Fania Mussman, were immigrants to Israel, who met each other while studying at the Hebrew University, in Jerusalem. His father's family had come from Lithuania. In Lithuania, they had been farmers, where they raised cattle and grew vegetables in the countryside near Vilna.[2] His father studied history and literature in Wilno, Lithuania - and had hoped to become an academic. However, upon moving to Israel, he could only secure work as a librarian.

Oz's mother came from Rivne (now Ukraine, but then part of the Russian Empire). She was the daughter of a wealthy mill owner. She was highly sensitive and cultured, and had been sent to Charles University in Prague where she studied history and philosophy. But she had had to abandon her studies when her father's business and finances entirely collapsed in the Great Depression.[3]

Both of his parents were multilingual (his father claimed he could read in 16 or 17 languages, while his mother spoke four or five different languages, but could read in 7 or 8). However, neither were comfortable speaking in Hebrew. They spoke with each other in Russian and Polish.[4] However, the only language they allowed Oz to learn was Hebrew.

Many of Klausner's family members were right-wing Revisionist Zionists. His great uncle Joseph Klausner was the Herut party candidate for the presidency against Chaim Weizmann and was chair of the Hebrew literature department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He and his family were distant from religion, disdaining what they perceived to be its irrationality. Yet he attended the community religious school Tachkemoni as the alternative was the socialist school affiliated with the labour movement, to which his family was decidedly opposed in their political values. The noted poet Zelda was one of his teachers. After Tachkemoni he attended Gymnasia Rehavia.

His mother, who had suffered from depression, committed suicide when he was 12, repercussions of which he would explore in his memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness.


Three years after the suicide of his mother, at the age of 15, he became a Labor Zionist, left home, and joined kibbutz Hulda.

There he was adopted by the Huldai family (whose firstborn son Ron now serves as mayor of Tel Aviv) and lived a full kibbutz life. He also changed his surname to "Oz", Hebrew for "strength". Asked why he did not leave Jerusalem for Tel Aviv, he later said, "Tel Aviv was not radical enough – only the kibbutz was radical enough". However by his own account he was "a disaster as a laborer... the joke of the kibbutz". When Oz first began to write, the kibbutz gave him one day a week to write; when his book My Michael became a best-seller, and he had become "a branch of the farm", three days; and in the eighties he had four days for writing, while teaching for two days and taking turns as a waiter in the kibbutz dining hall on Saturdays.”[5]

Like most Israeli Jews, he served in the Israel Defense Forces. In the late 1950s he served in the kibbutz-oriented Nahal unit and was involved in border skirmishes with Syria; during the Six-Day War (1967) he was with a tank unit in Sinai; during the Yom Kippur War (1973) he served in the Golan Heights.[5][6] After Nahal, Oz studied philosophy and Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, where he was sent by the General Assembly of the kibbutz. After graduating in 1963, he worked as a teacher of literature and philosophy.

His earliest publications were a few short articles in the kibbutz newsletter and the newspaper Davar. His first book Where the Jackals Howl, a collection of short stories, was published in 1965. His first novel Elsewhere, Perhaps was published in 1966. Following this, he began to write prolifically, publishing an average of one book per year on the Labor Party press, Am Oved. He ultimately left Am Oved, despite his political affiliation, and went to Keter Publishing House and signed an exclusive contract that granted him a fixed monthly salary regardless of frequency of publication. Oz married Nily Oz-Zuckerman in 1960. The couple has three children. They remained in kibbutz Hulda until they moved to Arad in the Negev desert in 1986, due to their son Daniel's asthma. Their oldest daughter, Fania Oz-Salzberger, teaches history at the University of Haifa.

Oz has written 18 books in Hebrew, and about 450 articles and essays. His works have been translated into some 40 languages, including Arabic.[5] In 2008 he was Nr. 72 on the Foreign Policy/Prospect list of 100 top public intellectuals.[7]

Awards and honours[edit]

Oz has been considered in recent years to be a potential candidate to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.[22]

In 2005, he was voted the 41st-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet to determine whom the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.[23]

Literary career[edit]

Amos Oz at the Literaturhaus München

Besides his fiction, Oz regularly publishes essays on the subjects of politics, literature, and peace. He has written extensively for the Israeli Labor newspaper Davar and (since the demise of Davar in the 1990s) for Yedioth Ahronoth. In English, his non-fiction has appeared in various places, including the New York Review of Books. Oz is one of the writers whose works literary researchers study from a fundamental approach. At Ben-Gurion University a special collection was established dealing with him and his works.

In his works, Oz tends to present protagonists in a realistic light with an ironic touch while his treatment of the life in the kibbutz is accompanied by a somewhat critical tone. Oz credits a 1959 translation of American writer Sherwood Anderson's short story collection Winesburg, Ohio with his decision to “write about what was around me.” In A Tale of Love and Darkness, his memoir of coming of age in the midst of Israel's violent birth pangs, Oz credits Anderson's “modest book” with his own realization that "the written world … always revolves around the hand that is writing, wherever it happens to be writing: where you are is the center of the universe." In his 2004 essay "How to Cure a Fanatic" (later the title essay of a 2006 collection), Oz argues that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a war of religion or cultures or traditions, but rather a real estate dispute — one that will be resolved not by greater understanding, but by painful compromise.[24][25]

Political views[edit]

Oz with his wife Nily in New York in 2008

Oz is among the most influential and well-regarded intellectuals in Israel. This regard is also evident in the societal realm where he regularly speaks out, although not as frequently as he did in the mid-1990s. Oz was one of the first Israelis to advocate a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict after the Six-Day War. He did so in a 1967 article "Land of our Forefathers" in the Labor newspaper Davar. "Even unavoidable occupation is a corrupting occupation," he wrote. In 1978, he was one of the founders of Peace Now. Unlike some others in the Israeli peace movement, he does not oppose (and in 1991 advocated[6]) the construction of an Israeli West Bank barrier, but believes that it should be roughly along the Green Line, the pre-1967 border.[5] He has also advocated that Jerusalem be divided into numerous zones, not just Jewish and Palestinian zones; including, one for the Eastern Orthodox, one for Hasidic Jews, an international zone, and so on.[6]

He has opposed settlement activity from the beginning and was among the first to praise the Oslo Accords and talks with the PLO.[6] In his speeches and essays he frequently attacks the non-Zionist left and always emphasizes his Zionist identity. He is identified by many right-wing observers as the most eloquent spokesperson of the Zionist left. His views can be encapsulated as follows:

Two Palestinian-Israeli wars have erupted in this region. One is the Palestinian nation's war for its freedom from occupation and for its right to independent statehood. Any decent person ought to support this cause. The second war is waged by fanatical Islam, from Iran to Gaza and from Lebanon to Ramallah, to destroy Israel and drive the Jews out of their land. Any decent person ought to abhor this cause." (April 7, 2002)

(Unofficial translation from Hebrew) Our biggest problem is the disappearance of social solidarity. A gross egotism is developing here, that isn't even ashamed of itself. Twenty years ago a girl from Bet Shean said on television "I'm hungry", and the doorposts shook (Isaiah 6:4). Yes, partly it was just lip service, but at least there was lip service. Today, even if she died of hunger on a live broadcast, nothing would happen, apart from high ratings and copywriters using the incident for their purposes. Anyone who once naively thought that the engine of the entrepreneurs and the rich would pull behind it a long train in which the rear cars would also go forward, was mistaken. That didn't happen. The engines are moving, and the rear cars are left behind on the rusting tracks. (September 6, 2002)

For many years Oz was identified with the Israeli Labor Party and was close to its leader Shimon Peres. When Shimon Peres retired from party leadership, he is said to have named Oz as one of three possible successors, along with Ehud Barak (later Prime Minister) and Shlomo Ben-Ami (later Barak's foreign minister).[5] In the 1990s, Oz withdrew his support from Labor and went further left to the Meretz Party, where he had close connections with the leader, Shulamit Aloni. In the elections to the sixteenth Knesset that took place in 2003, Oz appeared in the Meretz television campaign, calling upon the public to vote for Meretz.

In July 2006, Oz supported the Israeli army in its war with Lebanon, writing in the Los Angeles Times "Many times in the past, the Israeli peace movement has criticized Israeli military operations. Not this time. This time, the battle is not over Israeli expansion and colonization. There is no Lebanese territory occupied by Israel. There are no territorial claims from either side… The Israeli peace movement should support Israel's attempt at self-defense, pure and simple, as long as this operation targets mostly Hezbollah and spares, as much as possible, the lives of Lebanese civilians. [26][27]

Like fellow Israeli novelists David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, Oz changed his position (of unequivocal support for a military act of "self-defense" at the outbreak of the war) in the face of the cabinet's later decision to expand operations in Lebanon. Grossman shared their view at a press conference as he argued that Israel already exhausted its self-defense right.[28]

On December 26, 2008, a day before the Israeli offensive into Gaza commenced, Oz signed a statement published as an ad in Yediot Aharonot supporting military action against Hamas in Gaza. Two weeks later in a Yediot Aharonot article he advocated a ceasefire with Hamas and called attention to the harsh conditions there.[29] He was also quoted in the Italian paper Corriere della Sera as saying "Hamas is responsible" for the outbreak of violence, but "the time has come to seek a cease-fire." He called for a "complete cease-fire, in which they don't fire at us, in exchange for us easing the blockade of the Gaza Strip."[30] Oz also condemned some of the actions taken by the Israeli defence forces and called them war crimes.[31]

In an editorial in the New York Times of June 1, 2010, criticizing aspects of Israel's policy towards Gaza and its interception of the Marmara boat, Oz wrote: “Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians. No idea has ever been defeated by force ... To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one. Thus, the only way for Israel to edge out Hamas would be to quickly reach an agreement with the Palestinians on the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as defined by the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israel has to sign a peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government in the West Bank — and by doing so, reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip. That latter conflict, in turn, can be resolved only by negotiating with Hamas or, more reasonably, by the integration of Fatah with Hamas.”[32]

In March 2011, Israeli media reported that Oz had sent imprisoned former Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti a copy of his book A Tale of Love and Darkness in Arabic translation with his personal dedication in Hebrew: “This story is our story, I hope you read it and understand us as we understand you, hoping to see you outside and in peace, yours, Amos Oz”.[33] The gesture was criticized by members of rightist political parties.[34] He was singled out for published criticism by the Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely.[35] The incident led Assaf Harofeh Hospital to cancel Oz's invitation to give the keynote speech at an awards ceremony for outstanding physicians.[36]



  • In the Land of Israel (essays on political issues) ISBN 0-15-144644-X
  • Israel, Palestine and Peace: Essays (1995) (Previously published: Whose Holy Land? (1994).)
  • Under This Blazing Light (1995) ISBN 0-521-44367-9
  • Israeli Literature: a Case of Reality Reflecting Fiction (1985) ISBN 0-935052-12-7


Short stories[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^’s-two-state-solution/2/
  2. ^ A Tale of Love and Darkness, By Amos Oz, Random House, 2005, page 81
  3. ^ A Tale of Love and Darkness, By Amos Oz, Random House, 2005, page 180
  4. ^ A Tale of Love and Darkness, By Amos Oz, Random House, 2005, page 2
  5. ^ a b c d e Remnick, David, "The Spirit Level". The New Yorker, November 8, 2004
  6. ^ a b c d Amos Oz interview with Phillip Adams, 10 September 1991, re-broadcast on ABC Radio National 23 December 2011
  7. ^ List: the 100 leading intellectuals. World's top thinkers according to a survey by Prospect and Foreign Policy magazines, The Guardian, June 23, 2008
  8. ^ Amos Oz – University of Gen-Gurion Website (In Hebrew)
  9. ^ Amos Oz (Prizes, Awards, and Honors)- University of Gen-Gurion Website (English)
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Biography and Bibliography at the Institute for Translation of Hebrew Literature
  11. ^ "List of Bialik Prize recipients 1933–2004 (in Hebrew), Tel Aviv Municipality website". 
  12. ^ a b Biography at Jewish Virtual Library
  13. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site – Recipients in 1998 (in Hebrew)". 
  14. ^ "WELT-Literaturpreis an Amos Oz verliehen". Berliner Morgenpost (in German). November 13, 2004. Retrieved November 11, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Amos Oz receives Romanian Ovidius Prize". 
  16. ^ Lev-Ari, Shiri (September 15, 2005). "Two kids head off in search of truth". Haaretz. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 
  17. ^ Akiva Eldar, "Border Control / The Spanish conquest", Haaretz, 30/10/2007
  18. ^ "Literatur-Auszeichnung: Amos Oz gewinnt Heine-Preis" (in German). Spiegel Online. June 21, 2008. 
  19. ^ "Dan David Prize Official Site – Laureates 2008". Dan David Prize. 
  20. ^ "Israeli Author Amos Oz Wins Franz Kafka Prize". AP. May 27, 2013. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Amos Oz – the New Laureate of the Franz Kafka Prize". Franz Kafka Society. 28 May 2013. Retrieved May 30, 2013. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ גיא בניוביץ' (June 20, 1995). "הישראלי מספר 1: יצחק רבין – תרבות ובידור". Ynet. Retrieved July 10, 2011. 
  24. ^ Review of A Tale of Love and Darkness from National Review
  25. ^ “Return from Oz”. Review of The Slopes of the Volcano from Azure magazine, Autumn 2006, no. 26
  26. ^ Caught in the crossfire; Hezbollah attacks unite Israelis Jul 19, 2006
  27. ^ Hezbollah Attacks Unite Israelis July 19, 2006
  28. ^ Author David Grossman's son killed – Israel News, Ynetnews
  29. ^ Oz, Amos (02.13.08). "Don’t march into Gaza". Yediot Aharonot. Retrieved January 7, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Amos Oz: Hamas responsible for outbreak of Gaza violence". December 30, 2008. Retrieved May 4, 2009. 
  31. ^ Edemariam, Aida (February 14, 2009). "A life in writing: Amos Oz". The Guardian (London). Retrieved April 23, 2010. 
  32. ^ Oz, Amos (June 1, 2010). "Israeli Force, Adrift on the Sea". New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved November 26, 2010. 
  33. ^ "Amos Oz calls for Barghouti's release in book dedication". Jerusalem Post. March 15, 2011. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 
  34. ^ Brut, Zvika (March 16, 2011). "Amos Oz sends book to jailed Barghouti". Ynet, Israel News. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 
  35. ^ Book of Esther: Jewish fate ever since, Tzipi Hotovely, Israel Today" 17/03/2011
  36. ^ Levy, Gideon (March 27, 2011). "Who is sick enough to censor Amos Oz?". Haaretz. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 

External links[edit]


See also[edit]