A Tale of Love and Darkness, Amos Oz 2003

This 538 page memoir by one of Israel’s great writers provided hours of pleasure and pain—pleasure in the superb writing and the triumphs of the newborn state of Israel and Oz himself, pain in the tales of the early year of the state and the early years of Oz himself. Though I was familiar with Oz as a founder of Peace Now and a prolific and much honored Israeli novelist, I was not aware of this autobiography until it was recommended by Monica and Gerald Nadler, friends who we met in Sweden last summer.  When Oz died in December, 2018, I decided to read this book as a tribute to his memory, and I was not disappointed.  Moving back and forth in time and space, Oz travels back to Lithuania and Ukraine in the final years of the 19th C to introduce us to the Klausner and Mussman families who eventually emigrate to Palestine in the 1930’s where Amos’s parents, Yehuda Arieh and Farnia meet and wed.  We experience the British mandate in Palestine, the thrill of Independence, the siege and deaths of the War of Independence, and the Israeli politics of Ben-Gurion and Begin along with the scholars and shop keepers who were the Klausner family friends in Jerusalem. We live through the often agonizing adolescence of Amos as he loses his mother to suicide at 38 when he was only 13 and his father who remarries and moves to London shortly after that.  Oz himself takes on a new name and identity when he moves to a kibbutz at age 15 where he meets his future wife, writes many of his novels, and lives for 35 years.  I was also struck by the incredible richness of Jewish and Israeli literature with literally dozens of poets, novelists, historians, and other scholars whose names I had never know of.  A review of this book could easily go on for pages, but suffice it to say that Oz is a writer who can create a vivid world and characters that transport the reader to another place and time.  This is a memorable book, a fitting read to remember and honor a great writer.

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