Monday, April 19, 2010

A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz 2005

" His memoir, in a translation that preserves the author’s gorgeous, discursive style and his love of wordplay, is a social history embedded within an autobiography." From a review in the New York Times by Boris Katchka

This panoramic memoir is a must-read for anyone interested in the daily life of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe who settled in Palestine before statehood and lived there during the early years of Israel. Amos Oz, one of Israel’s greatest writers, uses the various configurations of his family to reveal their preoccupations, their interests, and their political arguments. The scenes he paints of them and their friends serve to introduce us to an important group of settlers, but the scenes also help to explain the world out of which Amos Oz, the child, the Israeli, and the writer emerge.

Having escaped Eastern Europe before WWII, Oz’s father’s family, the Klausners settled in Jerusalem; they were highly educated Zionists as well as scholars and poets. His mother’s family, the Mussmans, who arrived about the same time, chose to live in Haifa and Tel Aviv. They valued education as well (his mother and one of her sisters went to the University in Prague) but they had a different sense of themselves; they identified more as members of the proletariat and their Zionist politics were to the left of the Klausners. The two sides barely mixed.

Oz is a family historian, retelling many of the stories about his ancestors that he heard from family members on both sides. And then he tells his own stories: what it was like growing up as an only child in a family and community of multi-lingual refugee intellectuals. He describes what he remembers about both sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles. He gives us details of his education and his teachers, and what it was like to live amongst Arab residents.  He pays careful attention to his surroundings, describing in detail the streets and neighborhoods of the Jerusalem of his youth. And of course he details the political scene, including the drama surrounding statehood.

In the last part of the memoir he introduces us to Kibbutz Hulda where he persuaded his father to let him live after his mother died. That coincided with his changing his name from Klausner to Oz. Both contributed to his perceived need to break with the European refugee past that had defined his early upbringing and helped to redefine his identity as an Israeli.

Oz is a gifted writer. In this memoir he relies on photographs (not published except for one) to re-create scenes, and he quotes letters and journal entries. The memoir has an encyclopedic feel that is breathtaking. It has its comic moments as well as those that are deeply tragic. Amos Oz, observer and participant, provides many insights and pleasures for the reader in his skillful recreation of a world long gone.

To hear an interview with Amos Oz discussing his memoir click here.

Father’s Great grandmother’s Braz family
Rabbi Alexander Ziskind – author’s gggg  grandfather
    Rav Yossele Braz – his son; author’s ggg grandfather
        Alexander Ziskind Braz – his son; author’s gg grandfather
        Menahem Mendel Braz – his son; author’s gg uncle; wife Perla
            Rasha-Keila Braz – their daughter; author’s g grandmother

Author’s Klausner  family
Rav Gedaliah Klausner-Olkienicki
    Rav Kadish – his son
        Ezekiel Klausner – his son
                Yehuda Leib; his grandson– wife Rasha-Keila Braz;
                    Joseph – their son; author’s g uncle
                    Aunt Zippora  (Fanni Wernick)– Joseph’s wife
                        Haya Elitsedek – Joseph’s sister-in-law
                            Ariel – her son
                    Alexander-their son; author’s grandfather;
                    Shlomit Levin, Alexander’s wife; his 1st cousin
                    they had 6 children:
                        David (Zyuzia) –wife Malke (Macia)
                            Daniel (Danush) , their son
                            Yehudah Arieh (Lonia)– author’s father
                                Amos – author; his children:
                                    Daniel Yehuda Arieh
                            Marganita –author’s half-sister
                            David – author’s half-brother
                        Daria (Dvora) – husband Misha
                        Yvetta Radovskaya
                                Marina – her daughter
                                    Nikita – her son
Mother’s father’s family
Herz and Sarah Mussman, author’s gg grandparents
    Ephraim – married Haya Duba; author’s g grandparents
        (Naphtali) Hertz (Gertz Yefremovich)– author’s grandfather
        Fania (Rivka, Zippora, Feiga, ) Mussman – author’s mother
        Haya (Nyusya)– married Tsvi Shapiro– author’s aunt and uncle
            Yigal – their son
        Sonia (Sarah) - married to Avraham (Buma) Gendelberg
        Jenny – married to Yasha
        Mikhail (Michael) – married Rakhil

Mother’s mother’s family
    Gedalia Shuster married Pearl Gibor – author’s great grandparents
        Itta Gedalyevna – author’s grandmother; married Naphtali Herz Mussman

Not relatives, but play a part in the story Oz tells
Mala and Staszek Rudnicki
Dr. Krumholtz
Dr. Issachar Reiss
Menahem Gelehrter
Zelda Schneersohn – married Chayim Mishkowsky
Matya and Gita Miudovnik
    Grisha - their son
Yakov-David and Zerta Abramski
    Yoni - their son
Israel and Esther Zarchi
    Nurit – their daughter
Hertz Meir Pisiuk
    Arie Leib- their son; married Rucha
        Hemi (Nechemia) – their son
Samuel Hugo Bergman
Oizer Huldai

Olkieniki, Lithuania
Trakai, Lithuania
Popishuk (Papishki), Lithuania
Rudnik, Poland
Trope, Ukraine
Rovno, Ukraine
Tachkemoni  school, Israel

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