Monday, April 2, 2012

A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

Discussion leader: Candace Plotsker-Herman
Monday, April 23, 1 p.m.

Tragic, comic, and utterly honest, A Tale of Love and Darkness is at once a family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history.

Reserve your copy of A Tale of Love and Darkness on ALISCat
Readers Packet (Part I), prepared by our staff
Readers' Packet (Part II), prepared by our staff

Reviews from the NoveList Plus database:

Publishers Weekly:
/* Starred Review */ This memoir/family history brims over with riches: metaphors and poetry, drama and comedy, failure and success, unhappy marriages and a wealth of idiosyncratic characters. Some are lions of the Zionist movement—David Ben-Gurion (before whom a young Oz made a terrifying command appearance), novelist S.Y. Agnon, poet Saul Tchernikhovsky—others just neighbors and family friends, all painted lovingly and with humor. Though set mostly during the author's childhood in Jerusalem of the 1940s and '50s, the tale is epic in scope, following his ancestors back to Odessa and to Rovno in 19th-century Ukraine, and describing the anti-Semitism and Zionist passions that drove them with their families to Palestine in the early 1930s. In a rough, dusty, lower-middle-class suburb of Jerusalem, both of Oz's parents found mainly disappointment: his father, a scholar, failed to attain the academic distinction of his uncle, the noted historian Joseph Klausner. Oz's beautiful, tender mother, after a long depresson, committed suicide when Oz (born in 1939) was 12. By the age of 14, Oz was ready to flee his book-crammed, dreary, claustrophobic flat for the freedom and outdoor life of Kibbutz Hulda. Oz's personal trajectory is set against the background of an embattled Palestine during WWII, the jubilation after the U.N. vote to partition Palestine and create a Jewish state, the violence and deprivations of Israel's war of independence and the months-long Arab siege of Jerusalem. This is a powerful, nimbly constructed saga of a man, a family and a nation forged in the crucible of a difficult, painful history. (Nov.) --Staff (Reviewed November 15, 2004) (Publishers Weekly, vol 251, issue 46, p56)
Library Journal:
Award-winning Israeli author Oz (The Same Sea ), whose childhood ambition was to be a book, has constructed a memoir full of family wisdom, history, and culture. Oz's father was a librarian and, like his mother, a member of the local literary community. In the 1940s, a time of great upheaval in Jerusalem, young Oz believed that if he were a book there would be a good chance that one copy of him would survive and "find a safe place on some godforsaken bookshelf." The influence of Oz's parents on his career as a writer dominates this warm, funny, personal history; a standout anecdote involves Oz's grandfather, who revealed to his grandson the key to being admired by many women: be a good listener. As much as this distinguished book details the lives of the Oz family, it also captures the history of Israel. For biography, literature, and history collections in academic and public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/04.]—Joyce Sparrow, Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas Cty., FL --Joyce Sparrow (Reviewed August 15, 2004) (Library Journal, vol 129, issue 13, p80)
/* Starred Review */ A moving, emotionally charged memoir of the renowned author's youth in a newly created Israel."Almost everyone in Jerusalem in those days," writes novelist Oz (The Same Sea, 2001, etc.) of the 1940s, "was either a poet or a writer or a researcher or a thinker or a scholar or a world reformer." Oz's uncle Joseph Klausner, for instance, kept a 25,000-volume library in every conceivable language, its dusty volumes providing a madeleine for the young writer, "the smell of a silent, secluded life devoted to scholarship," even as his grandmother contemplated the dusty air of the Levant and concluded that the region was full of germs, whence "a thick cloud of disinfecting spirit, soaps, creams, sprays, baits, insecticides, and powder always hung in the air." His own father had to sell his beloved books in order to buy food when money was short, though he often returned with more books. ("My mother forgave him, and so did I, because I hardly ever felt like eating anything except sweetcorn and icecream.") Out in the street, Oz meets a young Palestinian woman who is determined to write great poems in French and English; cats bear such names as Schopenhauer and Chopin; the walls of the city ring with music and learned debate. But then there is the dark side: the war of 1948, with its Arab Legion snipers and stray shells, its heaps of dead new emigrants fresh from the Holocaust. "In Nehemiah Street," writes Oz, "once there was a bookbinder who had a nervous breakdown, and he went out on his balcony and screamed, Jews, help, hurry, soon they'll burn us all." In this heady, dangerous atmosphere, torn by sectarian politics and the constant threat of terror, Oz comes of age, blossoming as a man of letters even as the bookish people of his youth begin to disappear one by one.A boon for admirers of Oz's work and contemporary Israeli literature in general. (Kirkus Reviews, July 14, 2004)  Further information: