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Black Box
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1001 book reviews > Black Box by Amos Oz

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Diane | 2022 comments Read: May 2017
Rating: 4 stars

This is an epistolary novel told through letters between the somewhat dysfunctional key characters of the book. In much the way a black box gives the details about a plane crash, the letters reveal how a marriage disintegrated through various perspectives. I think Oz did a fabulous job of showing how complicated relationships and people often are.

Overall, I think this is a very well-written and innovative book. I will admit, however, that it did take me a while to get into the story, given the epistolary format. Once I did become engaged with it, however, I really enjoyed it. I will also admit that although I did enjoy it, I feel it pales in comparison to A Tale of Love and Darkness. really is unfair to compare the two since they are completely different and of different genres. So, in summary, a great book and worthy of the list.

Diane Zwang | 1214 comments Mod
Black Box by Amos Oz

This is the story of Ilana who is married to Michael and divorced from Alex. Ilana and Alex have a son Boaz who needs help which prompts the renewed relationship. The story is told in the form of correspondence; letters, telegrams and notes. Each letter reveals some new detail of the past which helps puzzle the story together. I found the letter writing refreshing given our current digital technology society. The novel takes place in Israel in 1970s and the customs of divorce and marriage are a bit dated. Overall, I enjoyed the book and thought it unique story telling. The ending was a bit flat for me which kept me from giving it 4 stars.

“As after a plane crash,” you wrote in your neon light letter, “we analyzed together, by correspondence, the black box of our lives.”

Gail (gailifer) | 1268 comments Black Box by Amos Oz
I have never read any other Amos Oz and A Tale and Love and Darkness is on my TBR list. I am hoping that I will get to that this year. I am hoping that Black Box is a pre-treat for me. The story with its slow unraveling of the past through the long detailed letters juxtaposed with short, terse telegram messages and letters outlining conditions in the present was a great way to get into the lives of the four primary characters and three secondary characters. In a way, one never had to read the clutter of a regular novel. You got a lot of background but not in any chronological way and you came to understand the conflicting motivations of each of the characters through what they revealed in their correspondence. All but one of the letter writers in the novel were very talented writers so I was able to enjoy their multiple stories. The characters were also very unique. One of the primary characters seems to have been based on a number of well known Israeli academic intellectuals such as Amos Tversky whose lives were uniquely impacted by participating in Israel's wars. The primary female character is both completely a product of a male dominated culture and still able to make decisions outside the strict limitations put on her. The ending is not a resolution but, more true to life, a fading away with grace.

message 4: by Pip (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 1357 comments Black Box Amos Oz
4 stars
The concept of writing an epistolary novel and comparing reading the letters to unravelling the clues that a black box gives the investigators of an airline crash was unique and intriguing. When each letter began the reader had the task of figuring out who wrote the letter. Sometimes it was immediately obvious, othertimes the reader had to withhold identification for a page or two. It made the process of reading a participatory one.

The letter writers were a couple who had divorced but who shared a son, that semi-literate son, the husband's lawyer and the second husband of the wife. each had a distinctive voice and world view. The letters between the ex-husband, who had written well received books on the topic of fanaticism, and who had also been a celebrated Israeli soldier, and the second husband who was an Algerian zealot who wanted to buy disputed territories for the state of Israel were particularly interesting. Oz was able to articulate the tensions of the modern Israeli state through their viewpoints. Much of the Jewish culture and beliefs were lost on me but just when I had decided that the pontificating were not for me Oz would include well known phrases from scripture which would resonate with me - someone who knows very little about Jewish culture or Zionism.
Sometimes the concept of what might be included in a letter was stretched to incredulity because the writing was more lyrical than what one would expect between people who were warring with each other, but the writing itself was so beautiful that the reader was willing to suspend belief in what was feasible.
This was an intriguing book, entertaining and beautifully written.

message 5: by Amanda (last edited Nov 03, 2020 08:15AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Amanda Dawn | 992 comments I listened to A Tale of Love and Darkness recently as well, and I agree with Diane that this one pales in comparison. I thought it was fine and provided some interesting insight into Zionism at the time, but I never really connected with any of the characters or overall story. I gave it 2 stars.

Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
4 Stars – hate the characters but love the book.

I am impressed that Oz managed to make such compelling reading out of a book with essentially no likeable characters. While I didn’t actually like any of the characters I was intrigued to know what their story was and where they were going with their letter writing.

I love the fact that this is an epistolary novel so we get the story in the form of letters and telegrams between the main characters. A good job this is set in the 1970s as this set up would make no sense in the modern day with email, text and Whatsapp ruling our correspondence.

I will say that some of the letters don’t actually read like letters and that is because Oz has to let us the reader know the details of his character’s lives and for this to work the characters need to tell us things in a way that would not occur naturally in a letter. For example writing things like and then you told me, or then we did, you said z etc you get the idea.

The title is best summed up in this quote “as after a plane crash, we have sat down and analyzed, by correspondence, the contents of the black box.” The breakdown of the marriage is the disaster that the letters record so that the reader can see where, when and why things went wrong.

On top of showing us how a marriage breaks down Oz also gives us an insight into the fanatical and in particular extreme behaviour, not in the sense of being an extremist but in the sense of living your life as an absolute with no tolerance for grey areas. All of the characters show this absolutism to a greater or lesser degree.

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