Amos Oz

Writer; Agnon chair of Hebrew Literature Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Widely regarded as one of the world's major literary figures, Amos Oz was born in Jerusalem in 1939 to a family of scholars and teachers who had immigrated to Israel in the 1930s from Russia and Poland. As a fifteen-year-old he left his father's world to live and work in Kibbutz Hulda, where he also completed his secondary education. Following his army service, Amos Oz returned to the kibbutz in 1961 to work in the cotton fields. During those years, in his early twenties, he displayed precocious literary gifts when he published his first short stories in the literary quarterly Keshet. After studying philosophy and literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he earned his BA degree, Oz once again returned to the Kibbutz Hulda. For the next twenty-five years he divided his time between writing, farming, and teaching in the Kibbutz High School.

As a reserve soldier in a tank unit, Amos Oz fought on the Sinai front during the 1967 Six Day War, and on the Golan Heights in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Since the mid 1960s, Amos Oz has published some twenty different books, all of which have also appeared in many languages-- Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian. His collection of short stories, Where the Jackals Howl (1965) set the tone for his revolutionary treatment of the kibbutz as a metaphor, or parable, where the ideals of improving life were set against the forces of chaos.

Oz's first anthology of short stories won him his first literary award and a keen readership, which has eagerly anticipated his every new publication. His works, especially the above-mentioned anthology and two later novels Elsewhere, Perhaps (1966) and A Perfect Peace (1982) are among the most prolific and sophisticated treatments of the kibbutz in Israeli literature.

Perhaps Oz's best known novel, My Michael (1968) caused a literary and political storm soon after its appearance. It has become one of the biggest selling books in Israel (over 105,000 copies), and has been widely translated. It was named one of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century by Bertelsmann, the world's leading publishing house.

Also considered among Oz's most powerful writing is Unto Death (1971) his volume of two novellas "Crusade" and "Late Love." Other works underscore his protagonists' search for happiness and contentment in life; some have obvious autobiographical imprints. Among the recent ones are, To Know a Woman (1989), Fima (1991) Don't Call it Night (1994) and Panther in the Basement (1995). His latest novel, The Same Sea (1999), challenges traditional novelistic notions.

Oz has also composed works of non-fiction, among them a number of collected essays on issues such as literature, ideology, politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Included among these are, Under this Blazing Light (1979), In the Land of Israel (1983), The Slopes of Lebanon (1987), and Israel, Palestine and Peace: Essays (1995). His two studies of literature are The Story Begins, and an interpretive work on the writings of Hebrew literature's great novelist of the twentieth century, S.Y. Agnon.

The recipient of numerous literary prizes in Israel and abroad, Amos Oz has been a full member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language since 1991. He teaches at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev where he holds the Agnon Chair of Hebrew Literature. He is also one of the leading figures in the Israeli Peace Now movement and has served as its literary and intellectual voice trough numerous articles published in Israel and abroad.