Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness is a chronicle based on Oz’s childhood in the early years of the state of Jerusalem. He captures the tensions and conflicts between Israel and Palestine. These conflicts are ongoing to this day. It occasionally makes the news headlines and re-sparks a flurry of political debate online. So, in the historical sense, this books a contemporary jem. As for the plot, Oz’s mother takes her own life by overdosing on sleeping pills. This becomes the focal point of much of his personal development. Oz’s narrative seems echo the Jewish sentiment of emotional abandonment and the feeling that Israel became a type of orphanage after WWII. The Jewish motifs embedded within A Tale of Love and Darkness that add richness to the plot are the fight for freedom, the love of literature, the love of language, and importance of food and eating.
“Friendship includes a measure of sensitivity, attentiveness, generosity, and a finely tuned sense of moderation.”
Most of the Jewish books that I’ve read are directly related to the Holocaust. I came across Amoz Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness after I heard Natalie Portman was interested in directing and/or producing a film adaptation (2015). I naturally decided to put this book on my reading list. It took me a while to read the book, but I finally managed it in mid-2021. It did not take long for me to realize that I had been remiss in not realizing there is a literary pool of Jewish texts that are not directly related to the Holocaust. If anyone else has any other recommendations similar to this book, please add a comment to this post. Hopefully, it will take me less to get around to finally watching the film adaptation. The trailer genuinely peaked my interest.
“Facts have a tendency to obscure the truth.”
I hope the film adaptation of the story will be better than the book. That usually isn’t the case unless the directors or producers are particularly gifted in what they do. Taking the richness of the literary piece and translating that to the screen is a unique art form. Yet, in regards to A Tale of Love and Darkness, I can say right off the bat that I was a little underwhelmed. And, the fact that the narrative is so long really got to me a bit. Perhaps that was the intention. I found it long-winded with an almost depressive, melancholic exasperation to the narrative. Given some of the events that happen to young Oz, I can totally understand why that’s the case. Even without running a literary search for articles on this book, the way that Oz handles the theme of mourning, especially mourning in the midst of growth and the maturation process, has a lot of literary integrity. A Tale of Love and Darkness is definitely the most Jewish text that I’ve read; aside from snippets of the Talmud / Torah that I read in a Christianity course many, many years ago. I definitely recommend A Tale of Love and Darkness, especially for those that have a gap of knowledge about Jewish culture and life in Israel in modern times.
“And 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 fondled them as though you were groping something private and inaccessible, something that seemed to tremble at your touch.”
Oz, Amos. A Tale of Love and Darkness. New York: Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 2003.
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