Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Elsewhere, Perhaps explores territory, both fictional and literal, that Amos Oz knows well. Like Reuven Harish, Oz was a long-standing kibbutz member, dividing his time between teaching and writing. Unlike Reuven, on the other hand, Oz is closer to the “new generation” of Israelis, who seem more confident, more self-assured, more at home, in a sense, in the land they claim as ancestrally theirs.

This division between the “generation of 1948” and the one which followed it (the generation of Oz) marks the main dividing line in contemporary Israeli literature. The older generation of writers lived through the founding days of the new Israel, and their works reflect an intense moral and patriotic vision. The new wave of Israeli authors, such as Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, are different in their outlook, and Elsewhere, Perhaps is an excellent example of this.

Oz sees the endemic armed conflict in which Israel lives as an existential fact, rather than a special case. He uses modern politics, including terrorism, as means to probe the individual human being and to see how a particular character will react to the common human dilemmas.

In works such as his collection of short stories Artsot ha-tan (1965; Where the Jackals Howl and Other Stories, 1981) and the novel La-ga’ath ba-mayim, la-ga’ath ba-ruah (1973; Touch the Water, Touch the Wind, 1974), Oz continues and refines the techniques he first established in Elsewhere, Perhaps. From his first novel he has developed an outlook that is Israeli in setting and feeling but universal in scope and sympathy.