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A Tale of Love and Darkness
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Gail (gailifer) | 1533 comments 5 Stars A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

A wonderful fine feast of a book which largely takes place when the principal character is between 5 and 12 years old and the new state of Israel is coming into being as WWII and all its horrors still infect the world. This book presents the events leading up to and following the creation of the state of Israel through the eyes of the boy who experiences the world through the arguments his logical erudite father presents and also through the folksy mythical familiar and dark stories his mother tells. We see the small world of a boy, his family, his family's friends and the people his family visits. Their stories give us insight into the broader world as we learn about what brought them to Israel and the less than welcoming conditions they encountered when they arrived.
Not only do we learn all sorts of details and tales through the eyes of a boy, but we also see through the eyes of the author who is writing the book when he is in his 60's. This book has been called a memoir but is also listed as fiction. The author calls out 4 or 5 times in the book when he is actually quoting someone from his distant past verbatim. Given that he only does this 4 or 5 times, the reader is left to realize that all the rest of the dialogue is remembered, recreated, and perhaps the memory is that of a 5 year old with no knowledge of the facts or perhaps it is the memory of an old man who is adept at telling tall tales who is imaging a boy he used to be but never was. It does not matter, it is the truth known as a greater truth that is captured. All combined it is an amazing book full of laugh out loud moments, wonderful language, and truly heartbreaking silences.
I loved it.

Diane Zwang | 1313 comments Mod
Gail wrote: "5 Stars A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

A wonderful fine feast of a book which largely takes place when the principal character is between 5 and 12 years old and the new state of Israel is ..."

Gail I am so glad you like it. This is one of my favorite books.

Kristel (kristelh) | 4248 comments Mod
A Tale of Love and Darkness - Amos Oz
Read in 2016

This is called an autobiographical novel of Israeli author written in 2002. It chronicles the author's birth (in Jerusalem in 1939) during the British occupation and the birth of the nation in 1948. I think this work is more that a mere autobiographical novel of the author, it is also a biography of the birth of a nation. I enjoyed reading this work though it did not read fast for me. in the end it just got to be a bit too much. I enjoyed learning the history of this time period and learned a lot but the book is even more. Written by the author as an adult, it is not chronological so much as bits and pieces of his memory of events. Here's a quote from page 390, "Memory deludes me. I have just remembered something that I completely forgot after it happened. I remembered it again when I was about sixteen, and then I forgot it again. And this morning I remembered not the event itself but the previous recollection, which itself was more than forty years ago, as though an old moon were reflected in a windowpane from which it was reflected in a lake, from where memory draws not the reflection itself, which no longer exists, but only its whitened bones." and "living memory, like ripples in water or nervous quivering of a gazelle's skin in the moment before it takes flight, comes suddenly and trembles in a single instant in several rhythm". I enjoyed the author's comments on writing and words and the insights in how and what made him an author. I also liked this story because of the story of Jews returning to the homeland, their experiences in Europe and what brought them back to the middle east before WWII and also the birth pangs of a new country. The tension of waiting in the night as the United Nations determined their fate and then the terrible abuse by British and Arabs after the UN passed the resolution giving Israel the right to be a country. Finally, Oz explores his childhood, his relationship to his father and his relationship to his mother who suffered from depression.

OPENING LINE: I was born and bred in a tiny, low ceilinged ground-floor flat.

But all of them, Tolstoyans and Dostoevskians alike, in our neighborhood of Keren Avraham worked for Chekhov.

Facts have a tendency to obscure the truth.

Success flows from perspiration, and inspiration from diligence and effort.

I wandered dizzily through virtual forests, forests of words, huts of words, meadows of words.

...a magic piper who draws the desperate and lonely into the folds of his silken cloak. The ancient serial killer of disappointed souls.

....yellow electricity pouring out like glue that's so thick it's hard to spill, it can hardly move, it can barely make its heavy way, the way viscous liquids do; dull and yellow and slow, it advances like heavy motor oil across the evening, which is a little gray-blue now, and the breeze stirs and licks it for a moment.

...while it was true that books could change with the years just as much as people could, the difference was that whereas people would always drop you when they could no longer get any advantage or pleasure or interest or at least a good feeling from you, a book would never abandon you.

There were lots of great lines and word use in this book such as "arguing with an angry chorus of dogs", "whole parliament of sparrows", and "inhaling silence like a smell".

The question for me is why is this included as a book you must read before you die? It was added after the first edition and it has retained its position. It really isn't fiction though memoirs are never fully literal either. It's important to me was to read about the European Jews who left Europe before Hitler started killing them. I liked reading about what it felt like as hey waited to hear if they would get to be a country. I also learned a lot about the painful childhood of Amos Oz who wanted to grow up to be a book and later states, "I killed off my father" referencing his decision to change his name to Oz. The author has taken the somewhat unpopular stance that there should be two countries, Arab and Jew. It's a long list of authors, books and literary mentions in this book. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson was the inspiration that launched his career.

Amanda Dawn | 1234 comments I listened to this book on audio about a month ago for my reading the world challenge, and getting around to this review now. Overall, I really liked this book and gave it 4 stars. His exploration of his childhood in Israel at a turning point in history, and his mother’s struggles with depression and subsequent death were all moving and fascinating.

I also loved how this book challenged the idea that Israel is a homogenous place culturally and politically, exploring the politics and cultural traditions among the different religious sects, individuals from different diaspora countries, and political leanings.

What I wasn’t huge on was some of the author’s political stances about two state solutions and perspective on entitlement to the land. But, I think it was still valuable for me to read this book as someone who is very removed from the geopolitical situation there. I would definitely read more of his books in the future because this one got me curious, and I want to read his other list book – Black Box- in the upcoming year.

Diane Zwang | 1313 comments Mod
Read in 2016
5 stars

Amos Oz is a new author for me but he is one of Israel's most famous authors. This memoir is of his life in Israel before statehood and how his parents and family immigrated to the country. Oz gives extensive family history highlighting the emotional sides to relationships. I was amazed at how candid Oz was on sharing his feelings about his parents and himself. This story also included Amos Oz love of writing and how he eventually became a writer. His writing I thought so beautiful that sometimes I forgot that I was reading non-fiction. This book ticked a lot of boxes for me; history, cultural, family and relationships so I loved it. I look forward to reading Black Box also by Oz.

My favorite quote from the book: “If you steal from one book, you're a plagiarist; if you steal from five books, you're a scholar; if you steal from fifty books, you're a great scholar”.

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