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Old 11-09-2013, 06:10 PM   #1
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A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

This is the MR Literary Club selection for November 2013. Whether you've already read it or would like to, feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time! Guests are also always welcome.


Some ebook availability-
Canada- Amazon
U.S.- Amazon

Some pbook availability-
Australia- Bookworld search
U.K.- Amazon search


So, what are your thoughts on it?


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Old 11-19-2013, 07:05 AM   #2
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Has anyone else started reading this? Any finding it a struggle? A jumble or memories not anchored in any time?
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Old 11-19-2013, 08:13 AM   #3
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I have read about 100 pages in difficult circumstances (we have painters in the house - radio on all day as they work, and various interruptions) so am not sure whether I am finding it hard because of that, or because of the way the book is written. I have to keep on trying to work out who people are and how they relate to each other, but I suspect that is to do with all the interruptions I am experiencing.
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Old 11-19-2013, 01:38 PM   #4
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I've started it but maybe I am not far enough into the story to be struggling.
I have read quite a lot of memoirs/biographies by jewish people who grew up in Germany or in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 20th century and later moved to Palastina/Israel. So in contrast, I find it very interesting to read a biography by someone who grew up there directly.
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Old 11-20-2013, 05:48 AM   #5
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I haven't started it yet, still plodding through The Count of Monte Cristo for the other club!
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:43 PM   #6
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Has anyone else started reading this? Any finding it a struggle? A jumble or memories not anchored in any time?
I'm about half way through and struggling. I allowed myself a break to read another book. Part of the problem is that, with this book, there is no eagerness to learn what happens next because it is likely to be terrible. It is too often tedious, although beautifully written. Because it is highly rated by many people and tells an important story, I will persevere, but it may take awhile to finish.

Like Bookpossum, I've wondered if external events may be interfering with my ability to concentrate. Apparently you have to want to know what happens next for a book to be a happy diversion.
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Old 11-22-2013, 03:53 PM   #7
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Has anyone else started reading this? Any finding it a struggle? A jumble or memories not anchored in any time?
my feeling precisely.
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Old 11-22-2013, 09:16 PM   #8
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my feeling precisely.
I'm about 2/3 through the book now and to the point of the UN General Assembly's Partition Vote. Finally this is interesting enough for me to care what happens next. But I had to read two other books since beginning this one just for the break.
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Old 11-23-2013, 08:25 AM   #9
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I'm going to be contrarian. I'm not that far into it, but I love it. I find the prose mesmerizing and dizzying, the imagerie grounds me solidly in Jerusalem, and the sardonic take on people and their behaviors has me snickering, even as it frequently shocks or saddens.

I've still got about two-thirds to go, but I'm greatly enjoying the labyrinthine journey, so evocative of the twisting streets of Jerusalem. For me, this is one of those books where the prose in translation is so gorgeous that I wish I could experience it in the original.
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Old 11-23-2013, 03:00 PM   #10
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Quote:
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I'm about 2/3 through the book now and to the point of the UN General Assembly's Partition Vote. Finally this is interesting enough for me to care what happens next. But I had to read two other books since beginning this one just for the break.
The sort of background narrative of the creation of the state of Israel was presented in a more linear fashion. The various memories not so much, though there was often repetition of these. So I found that it was a book that could be put aside for a while and then picked up again with little lost.

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I'm going to be contrarian. I'm not that far into it, but I love it. I find the prose mesmerizing and dizzying, the imagerie grounds me solidly in Jerusalem, and the sardonic take on people and their behaviors has me snickering, even as it frequently shocks or saddens.

I've still got about two-thirds to go, but I'm greatly enjoying the labyrinthine journey, so evocative of the twisting streets of Jerusalem. For me, this is one of those books where the prose in translation is so gorgeous that I wish I could experience it in the original.

Different strokes, for different folks. What you are enjoying so much I often found tedious and repetitious. What I did really like were the occasional pearls of wisdom presented. Though whether or not the thoughts presented were really original to the claimed sources ins anybody's guess.

A couple of examples are this wisdom about what many women find sexiest in a man (though it could equally apply to winning friends of either sex):

Spoiler:

What was the secret of Grandpa’s charm? I began to understand only years later. He possessed a quality that is hardly ever found among men, a marvelous quality that for many women is the sexiest in a man: He listened.

He did not just politely pretend to listen, while impatiently waiting for her to finish what she was saying and shut up.

He did not break into his partner°s sentence and finish it for her.

He did not cut in to sum up what she was saying so as to move on to another subject.

He did not let his interlocutress talk into thin air while he prepared in his head the reply he would make when she finally finished.

He did not pretend to be interested or entertained, he really was. Nu,
what; he had an inexhaustible curiosity.

He was not impatient. He did not attempt to deflect the conversation from her petty concerns to his own important ones.

On the contrary: he loved her concerns. He always enjoyed waiting for her, and if she needed to take her time, he took pleasure in all her contortions.

He was in no hurry, and he never rushed her. He would wait for her to finish, and even when she had finished, he did not pounce or grab but enjoyed waiting in case there was something more, in case she was carried along on another wave.

He loved to let her take him by the hand and lead him to her own places, at her own pace. He loved to be her accompanist.

He loved getting to know her. He loved to understand, to get to the bottom of her. And beyond.

He loved to give himself. He enjoyed giving himself up to her more than he enjoyed it when she gave herself up to him.

Nu, what: they talked and talked to him to their heart’s content, even about the most private, secret, vulnerable things, while he sat and listened, wisely, gently, with empathy and patience.

Or rather with pleasure and feeling.

There are many men around who love sex but hate women.

My grandfather, I believe, loved both.

And with gentleness. He never calculated, never grabbed. He never rushed. He loved setting sail, he was never in a hurry to cast anchor.


I also really liked this passage:

Spoiler:
Your grandfather was a Communist in his heart, but he was not a red Bolshevik. He always considered Stalin to be another Ivan the Terrible. He himself was, how should I say, a kind of pacifist Communist, a narodnik, a Tolstoyshchik Communist who was opposed to bloodshed. He was very frightened of the evil that lurks in the soul, in men of all stations: he always used to say to us that there ought someday to be a popular regime common to all decent people in the world. But that first of all it will be necessary to eliminate gradually all the states and armies and secret polices, and only after that will it be possible to start gradually creating equality between rich an d poor. To take tax from one lot and give to the other, only not all at once, because that makes bloodshed, but slowly and gradually. He used to say: Mit aroapfalendiker. Downhill. Even if it takes seven or eight generations, so the rich almost don’t notice how slowly they’re not so rich anymore. The main thing in his opinion was that we had to start to convince the world at last that injustice and exploitation are a disease of mankind and that justice is the only medicine: true, a bitter medicine, that’s what he always used take drop by drop until the body becomes accustomed to it. Anyone who tries to swallow it a ll at one go only causes disaster, sheds rivers of blood. lust look what Lenin and Stalin did to Russia and to the whole world! It’s true that Wall Street really is a vampire that sucks the world’s blood, but you can never get rid of the vampire by shedding blood, on the contrary, you only strengthen it, you only feed it more and more
fresh blood!

The trouble with Trotsky and Lenin and Stalin and their friends, your grandfather thought, is that they tried to reorganize the whole of life, at a stroke, out of books, books by Marx and Engels and other great thinkers like them; they may have known the libraries very well, but they didn’t have any idea about life, about malice or about jealousy, envy, rishes, or gloating at others’ misfortunes. Never, never will it be possible to organize life according to a book! Not our Shulharz Arukh, not Jesus of Nazareth, and not Marx’s Manifesto! Never! In general, Papa always used to say to us, better a little less to organize and reorganize and a little more to help one another and maybe to forgive, too. He believed in two things, your grandpa: compassion and justice, derbaremen un gerechtigkeit. But he was of the opinion that you always have to make the connection between them: justice without compassion isn’t justice, it’s an abattoir. On the other hand, compassion without justice may be all right for Jesus but not for simple mortals who have eaten the apple of evil. That was his view: a little less organizing,
a little more pity.
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Old 11-25-2013, 02:40 AM   #11
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Lovely passages Hamlet - and he's spot on about the attractiveness of a man who actually likes women and is a good listener. (Luckily for me, I'm married to one!)

I am still beset by painters so have pretty much given up reading until they are gone in another few days, as I can't concentrate and do the book justice, but I do really want to get back to it.
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Old 11-25-2013, 11:13 AM   #12
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I'm almost finished reading the book and, although I struggled through the first 2/3, I've enjoyed the remainder. I particularly appreciated the author's discussion of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and the book's impact upon him. It made me see A Tale of Love and Darkness in a different light and helped me understand Oz's approach to his subject.
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Old 11-26-2013, 04:53 AM   #13
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So far I have enjoyed the actual beauty and wit of the prose and the very clever characterisations. But I think this is a book to read quietly and at leisure when the spirit strikes rather than one to read straight through and analyse. This isn't by any means meant to be a negative criticism; after all the same can be said of the greatest of all biographical works: Boswell's Life of Johnson.

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Old 11-26-2013, 10:07 AM   #14
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The comment about what makes a man attractive is so very similar to something Stella Bowen said about Ford Madox Ford, a huge bear of a man. I've tried googling for it, but I suspect I read it in Bowen's memoirs and will have to see if I can find it there.

I was relieved when I got past the long interude with Auntie Sonia, as I missed Oz's voice. But I acknowledge that her testament was important to both Oz's individual story and that of Jews of the Disapora as well.
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Old 11-28-2013, 12:09 PM   #15
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The comment about what makes a man attractive is so very similar to something Stella Bowen said about Ford Madox Ford, a huge bear of a man. I've tried googling for it, but I suspect I read it in Bowen's memoirs and will have to see if I can find it there.

To the point of plagiarism, or just similar thoughts, perhaps from a common source?
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