A Tale of Love and Darkness

A Tale of Love and Darkness - Amos Oz, Nicholas de Lange Amos Oz is considered one of the leading lights of Israeli literature and there's buzz he's a candidate for a Nobel Prize. This particular book, his memoir, "was nominated one of the ten most important books since the creation of the State of Israel." And at times I truly can understand why. The man can turn a phrase and some of his insights are as striking as his prose: That wordatlarge was far away, attractive, marvelous, but to us it was dangerous and threatening. It didn't like the Jews because they were clever, quick-witted, successful, but also because they were noisy and pushy. It didn't like what we were doing here in the Land of Israel either, because it begrudged us even this meager strip of marshland, boulders, and desert. Out there, in the world, all the walls were covered with graffiti: "Yids, go back to Palestine," so we came back to Palestine, and now the worldatlarge shouts at us: "Yids, get out of Palestine." AND My father had a sensual relationship with his books. He loved feeling them, stroking them, sniffing them... books then really were sexier than books today: they were good to sniff and stroke and fondle. There were books with gold writing on fragrant, slightly rough leather bindings, that gave you gooseflesh when you touched them, as though you were groping something private and inaccessible, something that seemed to tremble at your touch. And there were other books that were bound in cloth-covered cardboard, stuck with a glue that had a wonderful smell. Every book had its own private, provocative scent. Sometimes the cloth came away from the cardboard, like a saucy skirt, and it was hard to resist the temptation to peep into the dark space between body and clothing and sniff those dizzying smells. So, why rate the book so low? The best I can describe my experience in reading this book is that it was like being sat tightly wedged on a sofa between two proud parents who are determined to show you the family albums--stacks of them--and natter on and on about each photograph. Maybe I'd have felt differently were this not my first work by Amos and I were already a fan of his. Or if I better knew and cared about Israeli intelligentsia and literati. The political and military figures of Israel's short history I generally know and find interesting. It's certainly an eventful, fascinating history--but for me Amos made this story of him and his family before, during, and after the birth of Israel dull as dirt. The memoir was repetitive and rambling and overlong and I gave it over 200 pages before deciding I didn't want to suffer through 400 more.