Amos Oz (ohz) was born Amos Klausner on May 4, 1939, at the home of his parents in Jerusalem, when that city was in the British Mandate of Palestine. His father, Yehuda Klausner, was an émigré from Eastern Europe and was part of a family that had attained great distinction in the study of literature and religion. Yehuda’s uncle, Joseph Klausner, was the author of a study of Jesus as a representative of Jewish tradition, which had shocked the more conservative elements of the Jewish world but which was well received in the general intellectual community. When Joseph Klausner arrived in what would later be the nation of Israel, he was hailed as a leading light of the country and given a position at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Yehuda Klausner was eager to follow in his uncle’s footsteps, but he never managed to achieve that degree of recognition and spent most of his career working as a librarian at the university.
Oz’s mother, Fania, came from a family that had been associated more with business than with scholarship. They had also come to Palestine in response to the growing sense of persecution against the Jews in Eastern Europe. Fania herself was an imaginative child who maintained that fondness for stories into adulthood. While she was a serious student, her vision of the world blended literatures from different languages and cultures creatively rather than in a scholarly fashion.
Oz was the beneficiary of attention in large measure from both parents, and he saw himself early as having the responsibility of fulfilling the dreams of both of them. He wanted to be a writer but also a scholar, who would take on the mantle of his great-uncle in a way that his father never could. His father had fairly strong political views that were influenced by Vladimir Jabotinsky, a right-wing ideologue, but he did not take an active political role himself. Oz recalled endless political discussions within the family and the neighborhood at large. Schools were chosen for young Amos with some eye toward their political orientation, but scholarship came first. He retained a vivid sense of the role teachers had in shaping his literary ambitions by introducing him to the use of language by authors past and present. Family friends included Shmuel Yosef Agnon, the first Israeli to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, although Agnon’s fondness for Jewish tradition made him unwelcome to Joseph Klausner.
While Oz was still living at home, it was impossible to avoid political factors in the world around him. World War II broke out within the first year of his life. Even after the defeat of Adolf Hitler,...
(The entire section is 1076 words.)