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Amos Oz


ball5.gif - 0.9 K Air Date: WMHT, Channel 17, Saturday, November 14, 1998, 6:00 p.m.
ball5.gif - 0.9 K Air Date: WMHQ, Channel 45, Wednesday, November 18, 1998, 9:30 p.m




Amos Oz
photo: courtesy of B'Nai B'rith Lecture Bureau

Israeli novelist Amos Oz is the author of Black Box, To Know a Woman, and Under This Blazing Light. He has published 18 books in Hebrew, and about 450 articles and essays in Israeli and international magazines and newspapers which have been translated into 30 languages in over 35 countries. Since the Six Day War in 1967, Amos Oz has been actively involved with various groups within the Israeli Peace Movement. He has been one of the leading figures of "Peace Now" since its founding in 1977.

Amos Oz was born in Jerusalem in 1939. His family included scholars and teachers, some of whom were militant right-wing Zionists, who emigrated to Israel in the early 1930s from Russia and Poland. In 1954, aged 15, Amos Oz rebelled against his father's world and left Jerusalem to live and work in Kibbutz Hulda, where he also completed his secondary education. After completing his Army service in 1961, he returned to the kibbutz to work in the cotton fields. In his early twenties his first short stories were published in the leading literary quarterly Keshet, before the kibbutz assembly sent him back to Jerusalem to study philosophy and literature at the Hebrew University. With his BA degree, he returned to Kibbutz Hulda where, for twenty five years, he divided his time between writing, farming, and teaching in the Kibbutz High School.

As a reserve soldier in a tank unit, Amos Oz fought on the Sinai front during the 1967 Six Day War, and on the Golan Heights in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In 1969-70 Amos Oz was a visiting Fellow at St. Cross College, Oxford. In 1975, and again in 1990, he was 'Author in Residence' at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and in 1984-5, together with his wife and son, he spent a year in residence at Colorado Springs College in America. In 1986 they took the difficult decision to leave the Kibbutz and make their home in Arad, where the dry desert climate is beneficial to his son's asthma.

Amos Oz continues to devote his time to writing, teaching (he is a full Professor and holds the Agnon Chair of Hebrew Literature at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Beer-Sheva), and actively campaigning for the Israeli Peace movement.

Since the 1967 war Amos Oz has published numerous articles and essays about the Israeli/Arab conflict, campaigning for an Israeli/Palestinian compromise to be based on mutual recognition and coexistence between Israel and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. As one of the leading figures in the Israeli 'Peace Now' movement since 1977, his articles, essays and political activities have made him a foremost figure in Israel. His speeches and articles appear in translation throughout the world.

In 1991 he was elected a full member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language.

In 1992 he was awarded the German Friedenspreis, one of the most important international peace prizes, which was presented to him by the German President, Richard von Weizsacker.

In 1997 he was awarded the French cross of the Knight of the Légion d'Honneur by President Jacques Chirac.

In 1965, he published a collection of short stories entitled Where The Jackals Howl which won him his first literary award, a keen readership and a strong literary opposition. The volume has remained continuously in print ever since, in Hebrew and English as well as French.

His next novel, Elsewhere Perhaps, was published in Israel in 1966 and subsequently in America, England, France, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Spain and Argentina. Chinese language rights have also recently been sold. As a stage adaptation, it was a major theatrical event in Tel-Aviv in 1982.

My Michael, perhaps Amos Oz's best known novel, appeared in Israel in 1968 and immediately caused a literary and political storm, provoking hostile criticism as well as enthusiastic admiration. Over 105,000 copies of the Hebrew edition have been sold, making it one of the biggest selling books ever in a country where the most popular national evening newspaper sells barely half a million copies. My Michael has also been published (often more than once) in America, England, France, Spain, Catalonia, Portugal, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Poland, Japan, Egypt, Romania, Bulgaria, Brazil, Hungary, Russia and the Ukraine, and will next be released in China. Many of Amos Oz's publishers published special editions in 1988 to mark the novel's 20th anniversary. My Michael was made into a wonderful film by Dan Wollman in 1975 and continues to be shown in cinemas from time to time around the world.

Next came Unto Death in 1971. A volume of two novellas - 'Crusade' and 'Late Love' - it is considered by many to be some of Oz's most powerful writing. Unto Death has also appeared in America, England, France, Finland, Sweden, Spain, Holland, Russia and the Ukraine, and is shortly to be published in Poland. Both novellas have been staged in Israeli theatres and have been broadcast on the radio in several countries.

Touch the Water, Touch the Wind, in 1973, caused another literary controversy in Israel. It has also been published in America, England, France, Spain, Russia and recently in Poland.

The Hill Of Evil Councel (a cycle of three novellas) appeared in 1976 and brought Amos Oz the prestigious Brenner Prize for Literature. It has been published in America and England, as well as in France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Holland, Estonia and Hungary.

Soumchi, published in 1978, was Amos Oz's first children's book -a story of love and adventure. It has been translated into English (both in the US and England), French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Ukrainian and most recently into Arabic.

In 1979 Under This Blazing Light was published, a collection of articles and essays on literary, ideological and political issues. The English edition was published by Cambridge University Press in 1995. Some of the pieces have been translated into other languages, and have appeared in magazines and newspapers around the world.

A Perfect Peace, Amos Oz's first full scale work since Touch the Water, Touch the Wind nine years earlier, was published in 1982. Very warmly received in Israel, it was subsequently published in America, England, France, Germany, Sweden, Holland and Finland, and will next be released in China.

In the Land of Israel, which caused a sensation in 1983, comprises a series of essays in which Amos Oz describes a journey he made through his own troubled country during Israel's Lebanon War. The essays, which originally appeared in the leading newspaper Davar, combine serious documentary interviews with very personal observations in a storyteller's setting, attempting to be fair and faithful to a variety of political and ideological groups within Israel. After a storm of protest and admiration, the essays were published together in book form in May 1983 to be followed by a whirlwind of rights sales around the world. The book has appeared in America, England, France, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Japan, Spain, Hungary and Poland.

Black Box has broken all records in Israel. First appearing in January 1987, it immediately went to No. 1 on the best seller lists in Israel and remained there for longer than any previous book. At its peak it was selling 500 copies a day and sales in just four months approached 70,000 copies, extraordinary for a country with a population of only 4,000,000 people. Black Box has been translated into English, French, Dutch, German, Swedish, Spanish, Japanese, Danish, Portuguese, Finnish, Italian, Czech, Polish, Greek, Hungarian, Russian and Slovenian. It is soon to be published in Norwegian. In 1988, Black Box won Amos Oz the Prix Femina Etranger, France's top literary award for the best foreign novel of that year.

In 1987 Amos Oz published The Slopes of Lebanon, a collection of essays on Israeli and world politics, the Middle East Conflict, and the Holocaust. This collection also appeared in English (in the UK and USA), German and Japanese.

In 1989 Amos Oz published a novel regarded by many to be a new departure for him, To Know a Woman, which evoked a passionate controversy in Israel. It has sold over 80,000 copies in Hebrew and it has been translated into English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Greek, Danish, Portuguese, Italian, Finnish, Polish, Slovak and Slovenian. Contracts have recently been agreed for Chinese and Turkish language editions.

Fima (or The Third Condition), appeared in Israel in 1991. Translated into German, French, Dutch, English, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Hungarian and Polish. It is also to appear in Chinese and Turkish.

Israel, Palestine and Peace - A collection of essays and speeches composed before and after the Israel-PLO peace initiatives in Oslo and Washington.

Don't Call It Night - Published in Israel in January 1994 and by May of the same year had sold more than 40,000 copies. British, German, French, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian and Romanian editions, have been published. It will also appear in Portuguese, Greek and Estonian.

Panther in the Basement - A short novel about the last year of the British Administration in Jerusalem, published in Israel in 1995 and on the best seller list ever since. UK, US, German, French and Dutch rights sold.

The Story Begins - A collection of literary essays written with insight and affection about 10 well-known writers and how and why they begin certain stories the way they do. Published in Israel and soon to appear in Germany, the USA and the UK.

As well as his books and political publications, Amos Oz is also the author of a number of articles on literary and social topics. He was one of the editors of The Seventh Day (soldiers talking about the Six Day War), and the editor of an anthology entitled Stories from the Kibbutz.

The first chapter of his unfinished memoirs was published in The New Yorker December 1995. German, Dutch and Italian language editions have since been published.

His fiction and non-fiction writing has been translated into a total of 30 different languages.

Amos Oz was a visiting writer at the New York State Writers Institute on October 28, 1997.


Reviews of Panther In The Basement

"A perfect performance, and I defy anyone who reads it not to be affected."
Nicholas Bagnall, Sunday Telegraph

"...we are in thrall on every page, to that singular panther who stalks the basement of his own bewildered world. Amos Oz, one of the greatest living writers, has resurrected him intact, beguilingly larger and more real than the panther could have dreamt - and has written his gleam."
Tom Adair, Scotland on Sunday

"A wonderful short novel from the increasingly acclaimed Israeli author. Another triumph and further evidence of Oz's increasing claim to serious Nobel Prize consideration."
Kirkus Reviews

"This is not just a childhood story, but a prose poem on the subject of trust across boundaries, and the failure to trust and to reveal truths ... It grips the reader because it is not only a story well told, but a sermon on trusting the enemy, and learning to love him.."
Julia Neuberger, The Times

"Like everything Oz writes, this book is wonderfully vivid and immediate. You can see, smell, taste his world. It admits the complexity of a moral view of life, which is a great strength in his writing... He always seems to me to exemplify the truth of Ford Maddox Ford's defense of fiction: that the novel can make you think and feel simultaneously."
Allan Massie, The Scotsman

"a parable of ignorance, innocence and potentially lethal insecurity... Deliberately presented with the humorous, detached superiority of an adult writing about himself as a child"
John Spurling, The Sunday Times

"Humane, humorous and graphic portraits manage again and again to do a double job in Oz's deft narrative... an endearing, subtle and stimulating novel."
Julia O'Faolain, TLS

"This short novel by Israelís leading writer is a superb evocation of everyday life in a land under foreign occupation ... Oz captures perfectly the innermost thoughts of a boy growing up in such and atmosphere and how he yearns to be a resistance hero."
Michael Vestey, The Spectator

"this is a gentle, unassuming story, both serious and amusing, told with serious pitch
and a humane awareness of life's paradoxes and ironies."

Publishers Weekly

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