Israeli Author Amos Oz Dies At Age 79

Dec 28, 2018
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Amos Oz has died. The Israeli author and literary figure was 79 years old. Oz's work tracked the state of Israel from its origins in the ashes of the Holocaust to today. He was born Amos Klausner in Jerusalem in 1939, before there was a state of Israel. He told NPR in 2004 that he came from a family of scholars and a city devoted to literature.

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AMOS OZ: The whole neighborhood wrote articles, essays, pamphlets, brochures, angry letters to the editor. The whole of Jerusalem was sitting and writing day and night.

GREENE: That childhood ended abruptly when his mother committed suicide. For Oz, that was transformational.

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OZ: So there was anger, self-anger, hatred and this urge to be born anew and to start a new life, a new family, a new reality and turn my back to the past.

GREENE: He shed his last name and chose the Hebrew Oz, which means strength. He moved to a collective farm, a kibbutz. That provided the inspiration for his first book, which was a short story collection titled "Where The Jackals Howl," published in 1961. His 1968 novel "My Michael" propelled him onto the national stage.

Oz delighted in the modern Hebrew language.

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OZ: It is like an erupting lava, earthquake in action. Every influx of immigrants brings in a new influence and a new input into the language.

GREENE: Oz's autobiographical novel, "A Tale Of Love And Darkness," drew heavily from his childhood and also his mother's experience as a young immigrant dealing with the harsh reality of life in the Promised Land.

Oz fought in the 1967 and 1973 wars, but he also believed Israel had to make peace with the Palestinians. Here he is in 2011.

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OZ: I'm worried about the future. I'm always worried about the future. I think every Israeli is worried about the future. And yet, deep down below, I believe that in the end of the day, there will be a historical compromise between the Israelis and Palestinians simply because there is no alternative to such a compromise.

GREENE: His last book was "Dear Zealots: Letters From A Divided Land." It was published in English this year. Oz won the Israel Prize, and also Germany's Goethe award.

Oz's daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger announced her father's death on Twitter. She said he was surrounded by those who loved him, and he knew it to the end. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.