Ianai Silberstein
Ianai Silberstein

Oz

Adonai OZ  l’amo yiten, Adonai y’varech et amo vashalom.                                  The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace. (Psalm 29)

When one has read Amos Oz’s major novel, “A Tale of Love & Darkness”, it becomes obvious why he chose to change his last name from Klaussner to Oz. He wanted to be a man of courage and strength, and so he was. However, one should not read “A Tale” as a biography but as fiction. One should not seek explanations to the writer’s life in a novel, however auto-biographic it may be; at most, sometimes, may be find some clues.

A novel is an attempt to organize characters and events in time; while also entertain. As Oz himself wrote in the novel (the whole chapter is missing in the English edition), the issue lies in the space between the text and the reader, not between the text and the author.

As readers, as Amos Oz’s literary admirers, as his followers regarding ideas, politics, philosophy, literature, Zionism, and most of all, Judaism in the widest possible sense, we shouldn’t stand in the space between his work, whatever its genre (fiction, essays, lectures, documentaries, you name it), and his life. This is what has recently happened when his second daughter, Galia, published her book accusing him of verbal and physical violence. It seems everybody rushed into that space, between the author and his work.

Not only “it’s not our secret to tell”, not only it’s not for us to judge:  we shouldn’t change our opinion and attitude towards his work because of his daughter’s allegations. May be one can’t avoid reading his work yet one more time and be somehow perversely influenced by them; if so, it should serve only to add yet another strata of meaning. Such is the richness of “A Tale of Love & Darkness”. The darkness was there for all to see, while the love was the narrator’s quest. Galia writes her tale out of darkness and soul-deep hate. “Something disguised as love” cannot be read as an innocent title; it’s meant to be a best-seller.

I never met Amos Oz, but had the privilege to meet his daughter Fania and son in law Eli. I stand by them. I read Fania’s post on Facebook this week and was deeply moved. I was moved that an adult woman had to go public on her memories, her past, her aging mother, and her dead father. The Oz affaire, which became a national issue the day he passed, has gone from national in an ideological sense to national in a sensationalistic, yellow-press sense. It’s become the “Meghan-Harry” affaire in Israel. The articles in the press, the TV interviews to Galia, the exposure, the poems and books supporting her claims, it’s just too much.

I don’t care how Amos Oz behaved at home. May be his quest for “oz”, strength and courage, his bitterness and crude approach to reality, his very own story moving from Jerusalem to the kibbutz while still carrying with him his parents’ journey from Europe to Palestine, may be all of that made him a harder man; but I’m also sure, because Fania and Daniel Oz say so, and because I’ve read and listened to his work and speeches, that he was a man of contradictions, compassion, and contrition. Amos Oz doesn’t elude the bitter nuances and subtleties of life; in fact, he’s nourished by them and grows from them. Read any of his three major works: “My Michael”, “A Tale”, or “Judas”: in all of them a subtle touch of crudeness lives side by side with a huge, deep, dark search and sense of love.

Galia said in an interview, “titmodedu!” “deal with it!”. In her harsh, sabra-like tone of disdain, she almost spat the words. She has also spat all over her father’s work, his iconic character, and mostly, on her family. Probably, she herself will have to cope now. Into those tales, as told by her, we don’t want to walk into. They’re not inspiring, neither moving, not even entertaining; may be, at some point, they might be plausible; but they are never credible.

Because this issue has gone overboard; because from the first minute Galia’s claims appeared on-line they were RT to me (as a very humble promoter of “A Tale of Love & Darkness” as a major piece of literature for Spanish speaking readers), because the whole affair stinks of hate, because we should never stop reading Amos Oz, but mostly because it’s become so public, I decided to write this entry into my blog.  Not to defend him; none of the Ozes needs this far-removed reader from South-America to stand for them.

I needed to write because if we allow “fake” to poison fiction the world will be a worst place. Life is hard as it is; literature, writers, artists, thinkers, they all have a life but they also leave us a legacy. Let’s not allow that legacy to be tarnished by the inner conflicts and tragedies that are part of any person, any family, or any country. I admire many artists, in any field, by whose ideas I wouldn’t stand for a minute. I admire Amos Oz not because of his stand on the “two-state-solution” but because of his use of language to explain why.

“I write about unhappy families” he used to say; “if you want to know more, read my books”. Once again, I urge anyone to do precisely that.

What is Amos Oz? Read his books! The rest is commentary. Go, study!

About the Author
Sixty-two, married, a son and a daughter. Very closely related to Israel, residing in Uruguay. Retired. Lay leader for the Masorti congregation in Montevideo. Served as President of the Board. Vice President of the Board of the Jewish school. Twenty years involvement in community affairs. Attended the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem seven times for their CLP programs. Writer & lecturer.
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