Laureates 2008

2008 Past - Creative Rendering of the Past: Literature, Theater, Film

Amos Oz

AmosOzAmos Oz, one of the most widely read Israeli writers in the world, has published numerous novels, novellas, short stories, essays, and occasionally even poetry. His writing spans five decades, and has earned him many outstanding Israeli and international prizes.

Several of his works deal with the pre-state period in Israel, when Palestine was governed by the British mandate. They represent the atmosphere and mood of that uncertain era as a backdrop for his psychological insights and his thoughtful in-depth characterizations, for which he is most well known. This is most evident in "The Hill of Evil Counsel" (1976) and "Panther in the Basement" (1995), and is somewhat the case in "My Michael" (1968). In his 1971 novella "Unto Death", Oz uses medieval Europe and Jerusalem as a background for a fictional crusader narrative, again, based on a psychological drama, fraught with struggles for revelation and redemption.

His noteworthy achievement in rendering the past in an artistic fashion is represented in his part fiction / part autobiographical 2002 novel, "A Tale of Love and Darkness". In this massive volume, Oz narrates the saga of his own family, reaching deeply into mythological, magical, historical, and real past, as remembered or handed down the family line by word of mouth or material remnants - and bringing it to its closure with his own maturation and becoming an artist. The brilliance of the novel is in the composition of this grand narrative, in which the personal represents - and becomes - the collective, and in which historical documentation may serve as notes to family affairs. Thus a sense of genealogy is created, with its domestic ruptures and psychological eruptions, in parallel to the unfolding of national history.

The collage of points of view as the narrator moves between his multiple roles as witness, reporter, documenter, protagonist, child, adolescent, critical adult, sarcastic commentator and political thinker, is a commendable artistic achievement. The shifting lenses and perspective creates tense and excited reading, and finally presents a multi-layered text, in which the past, although enigmatic and never totally at our disposal, is forever usable and in fact necessary for self understanding and revelation.

The theme underlying Oz's work can be expressed in his own words: "The fact that somewhere beyond race and religion and ideology and all other great dividers, the insecure, timid, hoping, craving and trembling self is very often very close to the next insecure, timid, craving, hoping, fearing, terrified self".

The 2008 Dan David Prize honors Amos Oz in the field of Creative Rendering of the Past: Literature, Theater, Film for portraying historical events while emphasizing the individual, and for exploring the tragic conflict between two nations from a very human point of view.