Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Amos Oz's Memoirs



I haven't taken the time to review many books here although, as The Misanthrope has pointed out, I am an avid reader. But I am delving into the world of book reviews today because I have read an incredible work by one of my favorite Israeli novelists. Amos Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness is his memoirs of growing up in Jerusalem, with accounts of his family history, the founding of the State of Israel, and more. It is an incredible book, penned by an accomplished and powerful writer (and translated by his long-time translator, Nicholas de Lange) -- and I haven't wanted to put it down. Here is a section from the middle of the book, in which Oz tells of the night that the United Nations passed the partition plan in November 1947. The neighborhood has been exultant, reveling in the good news from the radio, dancing in the streets, singing and yelling, and Oz finally goes to bed:
And very late, at a time when this child had never been allowed not to be fast asleep in bed, maybe at three or four o'clock, I crawled under my blanket in the dark full dressed. And after a while Father's hand lifted my blanket in the dark, not to be angry with me because I'd got into bed with my clothes on but to get in and lie down next to me, and he was in his clothes too, which were drenched in sweat from the crush of the crowds, just like mine...

Then he told me in a whisper... what some hooligans did to him and his brother David in Odessa and what some Gentile boys did to him at his Polish school in Vilna, and the girls joind in too, and the next day, when his father, Grandpa Alexander, came to the school to register a complaint, the bullies refused to return the torn trousers but attacked his father, Grandpa, in front of his eyes, forced him down onto the paving stones in the middle of the playground and removed his trousers too, and the girls laughed and made dirty jokes, saying that the Jews were all so-and-sos, while the teachers watched and said nothing, or maybe they were laughing too.

And still in a voice of darkness... my father told me under my blanket in the early hours of November 30, 1947, "Bullies may well bother you in the street or at school someday. They may do it precisely because you are a bit like me. But from now on, from the moment we have our own state, you will never be bullied just because you are a Jew and because Jews are so-and-sos. Not that. Never again. From tonight that's finished here. Forever."

I reached out sleepily to touch his face, just below his high forehead, and all of a sudden instead of his glasses my fingers met tears. Never in my life, before or after that night, not even when my mother died, did see my father cry. And in fact I didn't see him cry that night either; it was too dark. Only my left hand saw.

10 comments:

On The Mark said...

I've read "Don't Call It Night" and "Panther in the Basement" and loved both books.

On The Mark said...

I've read "Don't Call It Night" and "Panther in the Basement" and loved both books.

On The Mark said...

I've read "Don't Call It Night" and "Panther in the Basement" and loved both books.

On The Mark said...

I've read "Don't Call It Night" and "Panther in the Basement" and loved both books.

On The Mark said...

I've read "Don't Call It Night" and "Panther in the Basement" and loved both books.

B2 said...

Wow -- for a second there I though I had generated interest. But no; it's just On the Mark reading the same two books over and over and over again.

On The Mark said...

Yeah, I don't know how that happened and don't have time to figure out how to fix it.

Jack's Shack said...

That is a powerful paragraph.

Sotosoroto said...

I remember enjoying "Perfect Peace." He's quite a good writer. Sucks you right in.

Janet said...

Misanthrope- I know, it's true in many ways I should be dwindling my blogroll down, but I'm always on the prowl for new, worthy reads. I have a lot of my links on there merely bc I'm a faithful kind of gal.

If you think of a few, let me know.