Synopses & Reviews
"Touching, haunting, wrenching, amusing, and sometimes downright hilarious . . . This book is both richly panoramic and intensely personal . . . one of the most enchanting and deeply satisfying books that I have read in many years."--Robert Alter, The New Republic
Tragic, comic, and utterly honest, A Tale of Love and Darkness is at once a family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history.
It is the story of a boy growing up in the war-torn Jerusalem of the forties and fifties, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many. The story of an adolescent whose life has been changed forever by his mother's suicide when he was twelve years old. The story of a man who leaves the constraints of his family and its community of dreamers, scholars, and failed businessmen to join a kibbutz, change his name, marry, have children. The story of a writer who becomes an active participant in the political life of his nation.
"It is impossible to give a full account of this book's riches."--The Washington Post Book World
"A[n] . . . ingenious work that circles around the rise of a state, the tragic destiny of a mother, a boy's creation of a new self."--The New Yorker
"Detailed and beautiful . . . As he writes about himself and his family, Oz is also writing part of the history of the Jews."--Los Angeles Times
Amos Oz is the author of numerous works of fiction and essay collections. He has received the Koret Jewish Book Award, the Prix Femina, the Israel Prize, and the Frankfurt Peace Prize, and his books have been translated into more than thirty languages. Amos Oz lives in Israel.
Translated from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange
"[An] indelible memoir" John Leonard
PRAISE FOR A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS
"Detailed and beautiful . . . As he writes about himself and his family, Oz is also writing part of the history of the Jews . . . We are in the hands here of a capable, practiced seducer."--Los Angeles Times
"This lyrical saga . . . succeeds both as a revelatory tale of the artist as young man and a gripping portrait of the young Jewish state itself."--The Miami Herald
"[An] indelible memoir" --John Leonard
"Touching, haunting, wrenching, amusing, and sometimes downright hilarious...the best book Oz has ever written" New York Times
"The opening pages of this posthumously published memoir of early childhood by Saramago are rapturously enthralling..."
"The memories are not only small and immediate, vignettes with a sense of being interjected rather than relayed, but told with the immediacy of a child's gaze, so very different from an adult's reflection...[An] homage to Saramago's family and homeland, but also...the endlessly renewable life of the mind."
—The Independent (UK) "A great memoir...a tapestry of reminiscences stitched together haphazardly but with his usual irresistible charm... These are fragments of emotion and sensuous recollection that together poignantly conjure a distant childhood."
—Metro.co.uk "A moving account of his childhood and adolescence"
—The Spectator (UK) "I'll admit to having wept at the close of two of Saramago's novels, but his tale here is a gentler, more elegiac one. Small memories, perhaps, but a small masterpiece, too."
—The Business Post (Ireland) "The Master of Lisbon shows the grandeur of small things recollected in this refulgent memoir."
—Mail & Guardian (South Africa) "In Small Memories, Saramago examines the richness of his early experiences, taking pleasure in writing his past as the work of the man that he finally became."
—World Literature Today
Tragic, comic, and utterly honest, this extraordinary memoir is at once a great family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history.
It is the story of a boy growing up in the war-torn Jerusalem of the forties and fifties, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many. His mother and father, both wonderful people, were ill-suited to each other. When Oz was twelve and a half years old, his mother committed suicide, a tragedy that was to change his life. He leaves the constraints of the family and the community of dreamers, scholars, and failed businessmen and joins a kibbutz, changes his name, marries, has children, and finally becomes a writer as well as an active participant in the political life of Israel.
A story of clashing cultures and lives, of suffering and perseverance, of love and darkness.
Tragic, comic, and utterly honest, this family saga tells the the story of a boy growing up in the war-torn Jerusalem of the 1940s and '50s. It is also a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history.
Winner of the National Jewish Book Award International Bestseller "[An] ingenious work that circles around the rise of a state, the tragic destiny of a mother, a boys creation of a new self." — The New Yorker A family saga and a magical self-portrait of a writer who witnessed the birth of a nation and lived through its turbulent history. A Tale of Love and Darkness is the story of a boy who grows up in war-torn Jerusalem, in a small apartment crowded with books in twelve languages and relatives speaking nearly as many. The story of an adolescent whose life has been changed forever by his mothers suicide. The story of a man who leaves the constraints of his family and community to join a kibbutz, change his name, marry, have children. The story of a writer who becomes an active participant in the political life of his nation. "One of the most enchanting and deeply satisfying books that I have read in many years." — New Republic
"One of Mr. Saramago's last books, and one of his most touching," (New York Times), this posthumous memoir of his childhood, written with characteristic wit and honesty, traces the formation of an individual into an artist who emerged against all odds as one of the world's most respected writers.
“Small Memories is a . . . nourishing last gift from a great writer.”—Washington Post
Shifting back and forth between childhood and his teenage years, between Azinhaga and Lisbon, this is a mosaic of memories, a simply told, affecting look into the author’s boyhood: the tragic death of his older brother at the age of four; his mother pawning the family’s blankets every spring and buying them back in time for winter; his beloved grandparents bringing the weaker piglets into their bed on cold nights; and Saramago’s early encounters with literature, from teaching himself to read by deciphering articles in the daily newspaper, to poring over an entertaining dialogue in a Portuguese-French conversation guide, not realizing that he was in fact reading a play by Molière.
Written with Saramago’s characteristic wit and honesty, Small Memories traces the formation of an artist fascinated by words and stories from an early age who emerged, against all odds, as one of the world’s most respected writers.
“Like a nostalgic progenitor bestowing his wealth of life experience upon a younger generation, Saramago digs deep into his peasant roots to sketch a rough outline of the little boy who would become one of the greatest Portuguese-language writers”—Portland Oregonian
About the Author
was born in Jerusalem in 1939. He is the author of fourteen novels and collections of short fiction, and numerous works of nonfiction. His acclaimed memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness
was an international bestseller and recipient of the prestigious Goethe prize, as well as the National Jewish Book Award. Scenes from Village Life
, a New York Times
Notable Book, was awarded the Prix Méditerranée Étranger in 2010. He lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Nicholas de Lange is a professor at the University of Cambridge and a renowned translator. He has translated Amos Ozs work since the 1960s.
Reading Group Guide
In his review for the New York Times, John Leonard called A Tale of Love and Darkness an “indelible memoir.” Among the indelible images presented by Amos Oz in this masterwork are a childhood marked by marvel; a family of immigrants who crowded Oz’s small Jerusalem apartment to enlighten him in more than a dozen languages; the tumultuous rebirth of Israel; and an award-winning storyteller confronting his most haunting narrative—the tragic fate of his parents’ marriage, culminating in his mother’s suicide. When Amos Oz was awarded the 2004 Prix France Culture for A Tale of Love and Darkness, he described the book’s dual focus in his acceptance speech: “First and foremost, it is a book about the inner side of one small family. It puts forward an ancient riddle: how could two good persons bring about a terrible disaster? . . . .It is also the tragicomedy of all immigrants everywhere. It can also be read as the portrait of an artist as a young man, and a portrait of Israel as a young society. Indeed a very old young society, because the story is set in the years when Israel was one great refugee camp, full of runaways.” Hailed by Robert Alter in the New Republic as “touching, haunting, wrenching, amusing . . . the best book Oz has ever written,” A Tale of Love and Darkness captures an uncommon community of visionaries, revolutionaries, thinkers, and dreamers. We hope that the following questions will enhance your discussion of this mesmerizing literary achievement. Questions and Topics for Discussion 1. The memoir begins with precise descriptions of tangible objects, such as the cumbersome sofa bed where Amos Oz’s parents slept; the pickle jars and the lone lightbulb. What impressions do these initial images convey? What did Oz make of his surroundings when he was a child? What does he see in them now? 2. What do the author’s maternal and paternal ancestries share? What are the greatest sources of contention between the in-laws? How was Oz affected by the stories of his mother’s upbringing among faltering Polish aristocracy (especially those in chapter 25), and his father’s legacies of renowned scholarship in Russia (chapter 15)? 3. The Russian Revolution reverberated in Oz’s childhood, including his parents’ quandary over schooling as they had to choose between “the darkness of the Middle Ages and the Stalinist trap” (page 284). How do Oz’s parents perceive the role of religion and class (especially intelligentsia versus proletariat) in society? Was Judaism integral to all aspects of their identity? 4. Discuss the uneasy relationship with Europe embodied in the refugees Oz describes. How was his father able to reject British occupation yet admire the words of Churchill? To what extent is Oz a product of European culture, though he was not born there? 5. How would you characterize Oz’s childhood personality—a combination of creativity and industriousness, grandiose imaginary war games and a sensitive desire to please perfectly? How would you characterize his parents’ style of child-rearing? Are there recurring themes in his childhood narratives, ranging from being mesmerized by Teacher Zelda (chapter 37) to injured emotionally and physically in the incident at the Silwani family’s house (chapter 41)? What might his childhood have seemed to predict about his future? 6. Chapter 44 includes Oz’s memory of the pivotal United Nations vote that created modern Israel. How did Oz’s memories of this process enhance your understanding of it? As his father emotionally explains what that day means to him, what is being conveyed about nationalism? Is his longing universal, or unique to Israelis? 7. Numerous tragic deaths mark the reality of anti-Semitism in A Tale of Love and Darkness, from Oz’s cousin Daniel Klausner, who was murdered with his parents in Vilna when he was three, to the death of Greta Gat, who was shot by an Arab League sniper in the siege of Jewish Jerusalem in 1948. How does Oz use his role of survivor? How did he and his family cope with the knowledge of such danger, when armed resistance was not part of their nature (Oz’s father was not even able to load the gun issued to him)? What enables the author to see multiple facets of these situations? 8. Literature itself forms a backdrop for A Tale of Love and Darkness, with beautiful images of the Klausners reading passionately, and Fania telling evocative stories that needed no denouement. Oz pays homage to a pantheon of authors, from Tolstoy and Tchernikhowsky to Walt Whitman and Sherwood Anderson. In such a multilingual family, what role did language play in shaping identity? What is the significance of the varieties of Hebrew mentioned by Oz? Which authors recur in your own family’s literary legacy? 9. What literary techniques, such as the way time unfolds and the use of a refrain in the form of a bird singing notes from Beethoven’s Für Elise, enhanced the crafting of this memoir? What might Oz’s parents have thought of it? 10. Discuss Oz’s many vivid descriptions of food. From the perspective of an adult, what does he now understand about his parents’ cuisine—the carp in honor of Sabbaths and festivals, the failed vegetable garden? Was Fania able to nourish her family as she wanted to? 11. Chapter 46 features the appearance of Finnish missionary women. What do they indicate about the West’s varied attitudes toward Israel? Do the missionaries seem realistic? Did Oz receive a realistic account of Jesus from Joseph Klausner? 12. Oz compares the exuberance of Tel Aviv to the gravity of Jerusalem as he travels from his home to visit relatives. How does each locale shape the outcome of his life? 13. On page 215, Oz writes that his mother “might have been able to grit her teeth and endure hardship and loss, poverty, or the cruelty of married life. But what she couldn’t stand, it seems to me, was the tawdriness.” In what way is this the dilemma of many immigrant experiences? Is it possible to find a true “homeland” where one’s complete identity can be fulfilled? By what means have your ancestors weighed the costs of migration and survival? 14. The death of Oz’s mother occurs at a time of life that would traditionally have marked his transition from boyhood to manhood. How does he subsequently describe his approach to relationships with women (and to the experience of love and darkness)? Did his father appear to possess the same quantity of humility in love? 15. What do you believe motivated Oz’s move to the kibbutz? What was he able to determine about his true nature there? How did you react to his meeting with David Ben-Gurion in chapter 52? Did he feel equal or less affinity with his father wwhen he came to visit, bringing an inscribed copy of The Novella in Hebrew Literature no less? 16. To what extent did Oz’s young life reflect that of the young nation of Israel in which he was raised? 17. Oz's memoir mentions the fictional characters and conflicts that arose from some of the events in his life. What parallels do you see between A Tale of Love and Darkness and Oz's previous work? How did the skills honed in his other books, fiction and nonfiction, manifest themselves in such a personal work as this? About the Author Amos Oz is the author of numerous works of fiction and collections of essays. He has received the Prix Femina, the Israel Prize, and the Frankfurt Peace Prize, and his books have been translated into more than thirty languages. He lives in Israel.
Copyright © 2005 Harcourt, Inc.