four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
15-Mar-Apr-2005
By: 
Amos Oz
user_rating: 
0

A-TaleLoveFrom his childhood in British-ruled Jerusalem to his work as a novelist and arbiter for peace, Oz’s life has paralleled the formation of the State of Israel. His parents fled Eastern Europe for Palestine, only to be frustrated by the lack of jobs for educated Jews. Residents of his lower-class neighborhood gathered in the streets to hear the UN vote to create Israel, but war soon tempered the celebration. After his mother’s suicide, Oz abandoned his re-married father and his Zionist politics, changed his name, and joined a kibbutz, where he continues to live and write today. Though this autobiography moves with a historic sweep, in the end it recounts one man’s path through an extraordinary time.
Harcourt. 538 pages. $26. ISBN: 0151008787

Los Angeles Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"We are reading of grave and consequential things, but all those things are being seen by one very special, educated, intelligent and highly sensitive blue-eyed boy." Amy Wilentz

Guardian (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"I am a great admirer of Oz as a novelist, of his spare, quiet portraits of intimacy between couples, but here, in this long book, he reveals a huge talent for the big narrative picture, for Dickensian character portraits and an expert fusion of history and personal life." Linda Grant

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Of all the terrible questions that Alice is asked in Wonderland, the most terrible is puffed out by the hookah-smoking Caterpillar: ‘Who Are You?’ … To the impossible question of the Caterpillar, Oz answers with a multitude of reflections, each one essential and each one necessarily incomplete." Alberto Manguel

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"This panoramic and multivocal memoir, luminous in both topical anecdote and psychological characterization, is a consistently gracious and compassionate meditation on the birth and consciousness of a writer. Revealed here is an exceptionally intimate and emotional archaeology, which provide astonishing truths about the origins of art itself." Ranen Omer-Sherman

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Until now, Oz has never written about his unhappy mother. … But A Tale of Love and Darkness also mourns the death of the socialist-Zionist dream of a just society and a strange new nationalism, predicated on research universities and string quartets, on comparative literature and experimental agriculture, that turned instead into an acid reflux of checkpoints, demolitions, transit camps, penal colonies and strategic hamlets." John Leonard

Independent (UK) 3 of 5 Stars
"… mesmerizing …. But fans of his novels, with their lean prose, may find this hard going." David Cesarini

Critical Summary

An international novelist of stature, Oz makes an assured leap to autobiography and is greeted with reverence and awe. Aware of the universality of his story, he enlists excerpts from the diaries of friends and relatives to provide a broader context. He also forgoes tying his narrative to a strict timeline, opting instead for a circular approach. Settings and characters bear the vibrant imprint of his descriptive skills. For all the praise, a few devil’s advocates lurk out there—David Cesarini of The Independent calls the prose "dense … almost liturgical"—but even he concedes that it’s an impressive piece of work. It is rare for a fiction writer’s life to be more dramatic than his novels, but such is the case with Oz.

Also by the Author

To Know a Woman (1989): A retired Israeli espionage agent struggles following the accidental death of his wife. His success in the secret service was due to his cold control of any situation; now he must learn to reconnect with those left in his everyday life.