(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In this autobiographical account of his family and his early life, Oz tries to penetrate the background that led to his mother’s suicide when he was twelve and to his subsequent desertion from family tradition and even from his name. The “love” of the title refers to the crosscurrents of affection through his family and perhaps to the glimmerings of romance that become visible toward the end of the book. While those unfamiliar with Oz’s life may not know in advance what the “darkness” will be, there are plenty of moments at which the approaching suicide is foreshadowed.

The structure of the book is an exercise in symmetry. As this autobiography proceeds, it oscillates between events that occurred before he was born and from his early years to those in later life. The oscillations become narrower as the book proceeds, and it becomes clear only at the end of the book that their center is his mother’s suicide.

While in his novels Oz was inclined to list the suburbs of Jerusalem, in this book he stretches the Hebrew language to its grammatical limits. Sentences run on at length to capture the actions of the characters and the responses of family members. The flavor of the Hebrew is well rendered into English by translator Nicholas de Lange, who has worked on Oz’s novels for more than thirty years.

Oz describes the wealth of the intellectual heritage in which he grew up, but even as a child he is torn between the...

(The entire section is 535 words.)