A Tale of Love and Darkness

by Amos Klausner

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.


Amos Oz is the author and main character in A Tale of Love and Darkness. The book is about his childhood in Jerusalem, his mother's suicide, and how he comes to terms with the community of artists and thinkers he lives in yet feels apart from. Eventually, this drives him to leave home after the death of his mother and join the Kibbutz Hulda. Part of the schism of self that Oz experiences is that his parents speak many languages but only allow him to know Hebrew to keep him separate from what's happening in Europe. However, his mother fills him with stories about things she's seen and knows from there. His family had to escape Europe to avoid being killed because of their Jewish heritage.


Fania is Oz's mother. She's a nervous, sad woman who Oz always feels is living with inescapable darkness. She moved from Russia to Jerusalem where she married her husband after being chased out of college by anti-semites. She reads 8 languages and speaks 5. When Oz is 12, she overdoses on pills and dies.


Yehuda is Oz's father. He loses himself in literature and art; after his wife dies, for example, he never speaks of her again. Oz also says they didn't talk about themselves and only about simple things. Yehuda's family was Lithuanian, but he moved to Jerusalem and attended college. Though he wanted to be a professor, he was a librarian for most of his life. He reads 17 languages and speaks 11. He eventually gets remarried, moves to London, gets a Ph.D., and has two children with his new wife: Marganita and David. At the end of the book, he dies—20 years after his wife.


Samuel Yosef Agnon is winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and was friends with Oz's father. Oz spent time around him as a child and as an adult. He is illustrative of the group of artists and writers that Oz grows up with.


Teacher Zelda is a teacher of Oz's who he has strong loving feelings for. Later, she becomes a famous poet. She's kind and understanding. When Oz is little, he gets her mail. As an adult, he sees the letter box is smashed open and thinks someone must have been less patient than him or Zelda.


Haya is Oz's aunt on his mother's side. It's at her house that his mother kills herself when Oz is 12. She's married to a man called Tsvi. They live in Tel Aviv.

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