December 28, 2018
The author of books including Black Box, A Tale of Love and Darkness and In the Land of Israel, has died from cancer
Israeli novelist Amos Oz dies aged 79
The esteemed Israeli novelist Amos Oz has died at the age of 79, from cancer.
The author of 18 books in Hebrew and a longtime candidate for the Nobel prize for literature, Oz was best known for novels including Black Box, In the Land of Israel and A Tale of Love and Darkness, his bestselling autobiographical novel. Much of his work, both fiction and non-fiction, explored kibbutz life and picked apart his characters’ often complex relationships with Israel and modern politics – reflective of his own.
“To those who love him, thank you,” his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger, while announcing his death on Twitter on Friday.
Born Amos Klausner in Jerusalem in 1939, Oz was raised by a Lithuanian father and Polish mother. When he was 12, his mother killed herself; two years later, he left home, and joined kibbutz, adopting the Hebrew surname Oz. Despite being raised in an irreligious home, Oz developed a fascination with religion, telling the Guardian in a 2016 interview that he began studying the New Testament as a teenager: “I realised at the age of 16 that unless I read the gospels, I would never have access to Renaissance art, to the music of Bach or the novels of Dostoevsky. So in the evenings, when the other boys went to play basketball or chase girls – I had no chance in either – I found my comfort in Jesus.”
After studying literature and philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Oz published his first book, Where The Jackals Howl, at the age of 26 to critical acclaim in Israel; the short story collection about kibbutz life was later published in English. His breakthrough novel, 1968’s My Michael, would be translated into more than 30 languages, and established Oz as one of the more prominent literary voices in Israel.
A stream of novels would follow over the next five decades, including A Tale of Love and Darkness. One of the bestselling books ever to come from Israel, the autobiographical novel was adapted for film in 2015 by actor Natalie Portman, who also played Oz’s mother.
Having grown up in the early days of the modern state of Israel, Oz was one of the first public figures to advocate a two-state solution with Palestine, announcing in a 1967 article that “even unavoidable occupation is a corrupting occupation.” Over decades, he robustly criticised Israeli governments that refused to engage with the policy, as well as Israeli settlement activity. A Zionist, Oz also supported Israel’s position in a number of conflicts, including the second Lebanon war and the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict. He was a steady critic of Hamas, writing in one of his many articles about Israeli conflicts for international media, in the New York Times in 2010: “Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians. No idea has ever been defeated by force .. To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one.”
In 2017, he was shortlisted for the Man Booker International prize for his final book published in English: Judas, about an old man and a young man making sense of the world in a house in Jerusalem.
More to come.
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