Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Amos Oz has written several novels, among them the well-known Mikha’el sheli, 1968 (My Michael, 1972)—the basis of an esteemed feature film of that title—Kufsah shehorah (1987; Black Box, 1988), which received worldwide attention when it was published, and Al tagidi lailah (1994; Don’t Call It Night, 1995). He has also written a children’s novel, Sumkhi (1978; Soumchi, 1980). His many nonfiction books range from collections of essays on history, politics, and society, as in Po va-sham be-Erets-Yisra’el bi-setav (1982; In the Land of Israel, 1983) and Mi-mordot ha-Levanon: Ma’amarim u-reshimot (1987; The Slopes of Lebanon, 1989), to essays mixing autobiography, philosophy, literary criticism, and sociopolitical analysis, as in Be-or ha-Techelet ha-azah: Ma’amarim ve-reshimot (1979; Under This Blazing Light: Essays, 1995) and Israel, Palestine, and Peace: Essays (1994), to focused literary criticism in Shetikat ha-shamayim (1993; The Silence of Heaven, 2000) and Mathilim sipur (1996; The Story Begins: Essays on Literature, 1999).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

With Avraham Yehoshua and Aharon Appelfeld, Amos Oz is one of the select group of the most highly regarded writers in the earliest of the new waves in Israeli fiction. However, he has won not only prestigious literary prizes (Holon Prize, 1965; Brenner Prize, 1978; Bialik Prize, 1986; French Prix Femina, 1988; Israel Prize for Literature, 1998) but also political awards (Frankfurt Peace Prize, 1992; French Legion of Honor, 1997), which reflect his liberal philosophy and leadership in the Peace Now movement in Israel. His books consistently have been translated into not only English but also most Asian and European languages in worldwide publication.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Amos Oz is a widely regarded and well-known Israeli intellectual and writer. He has published essays on politics, literature, and other topics. His journalistic essays have appeared in the Israeli labor newspaper Davar and, beginning in the 1990’s, the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. His nonfiction has been published in The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, and his political essays are collected in Po va-sham be-Erets-Yisra’el bi-setav (1982; In the Land of Israel, 1983) and Israel, Palestine, and Peace: Essays (1994). He also has published collections of literary essays, Mathilim sipur (1996; The Story Begins: Essays on Literature, 2000); short stories, Artsot hatan (1965; Where the Jackals Howl, and Other Stories, 1981); and novellas, Har ha’etsah ha-ra’ah (1976; The Hill of Evil Counsel: Three Stories, 1978). His remarkable memoir Sipur ’al ahavah ve-hoshekh (2002; A Tale of Love and Darkness, 2004) tells about coming-of-age in a period of violence.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Amos Oz has written books in Hebrew and hundreds of articles and essays that have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. He was a visiting fellow at St. Cross College, Oxford, and an author-in-residence at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Colorado Springs College, and Boston, Princeton, Tel Aviv, and Indiana universities. He was named Officer of Arts and Letters in France and honored with the French Prix Femina for best foreign novel published in France. In 1942, he won the German Frankfurt Peace Prize, and the city of Frankfurt also awarded him the Goethe Prize in 2005 (an award earlier received by Sigmund Freud and Thomas Mann, among others).

In 2007, Oz won the Prince of Asturias Award of Letters, one of a series of annual prizes given in Spain by the Foundation Principe de Asturias since 1981 to individuals or entities who make notable achievements in the sciences, humanities, or public affairs. He earned his country’s most prestigious literary prize—the Israel Prize for Literature—in 1998, the fiftieth year of Israel’s independence. He received an honorary degree from the University of Antwerp, Belgium, in 2008, and in the same year received the Dan David Prize for Creative Rendering of the Past. Oz has been active in the Israeli peace movement, which works for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Do women have a positive role to play in Amos Oz’s novels?

Are there any examples of happy families in Oz’s works? How is that a reflection of his own childhood?

Oz changed his name when he left home to live in a kibbutz. Could he have written his novels under the burden of his birth name?

Some observant Jews object to the portrayal of sexual scenes in Oz’s books. Is that the only reason that they might find his novels unsympathetic?

Why does Oz like to give lists of place names in his novels? Is this to add an air of realistic setting to a fictional narrative?

Oz has compared Anton Chekhov’s tragedies with those of William Shakespeare’s and noted that, however unhappy the characters are in the former, they are alive at the end. Can one describe Oz’s novels as tragedies in the Chekhovian mode?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Aschkenasy, Nehama. “On Jackals, Nomads, and the Human Condition.” Midstream 29 (January, 1983): 58-60. One of the more extended reviews of Where the Jackals Howl and Other Stories.

Balaban, Avraham. Between Good and Beast: An Examination of Amos Oz’s Prose. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993. Chapter 2, “Introduction to Oz: The Early Stories,” is a forty-six page detailed analysis of Where the Jackals Howl and Other Stories, including some Hebrew stories left out of the revised Hebrew edition and the English translation. The novelette collections receive much less attention in the book.

Bargad, Warren. “Amos Oz and the Art of Fictional Response.” Midstream (November, 1976): 61-64. An article focusing on Unto Death.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Amoz Oz. New York: Chelsea House, 1992. A collection of essays chosen to represent the spectrum of critical reception of Oz’s work. Includes an overview essay by Bloom himself.

Dickstein, Morris. Review of The Hill of Evil Counsel, by Amos Oz. The New York Times Book Review, May 28, 1978, 5. The lengthiest review, surpassing by several hundred words, in its 1850 words, the review in the New York Review of Books (July 20, 1978) and The New Yorker...

(The entire section is 505 words.)