Amos Oz: Writer, Activist, Icon

Yale Univ. Sept. 2023. 200p. ISBN 9780300250176. $26. LIT
The importance of Hebrew writer, public intellectual, and prize-winning novelist Amos Oz (1939–2018) is beautifully discussed in this literary biography from scholar Alter (emeritus, Hebrew and comparative lit, Univ. of California, Berkeley; Nabokov and the Real World; The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary). Alter outlines major phases of Oz’s life from childhood, life on the kibbutz, and the relationships he created through friends and family and world acclaim, using many of Oz’s published writings, especially his memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness, as touchstones for understanding Oz’s life, values, activism, and ultimate legacy. Drawing on interviews, conversations with those who knew Oz, and his own friendship with Oz, Alter explains the tension and contradictions that produced this important literary figure. In documenting this life, Alter observes aspects of Oz’s character that demonstrated how courageously his life was lived in spite of the demons from the past. Oz’s extraordinary literary talents sustained him and enabled him to be a strong voice for the moral imperatives of Israel, Alter argues.
VERDICT Through his elevation of the richness of the Hebrew language, Oz’s legacy will continue to be valued; Alter’s biography is a highly recommended contribution to that legacy.
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