ARTS & LEISURE

Amos Oz on books, history and the present in conference at Athenaeum

Participants in the Amos Oz conference at the Romanian Athenaeum included, alongside the Israeli ambassador in Bucharest, Dan Ben Elizer, who introduced the exceptional Israeli writer with words of praise, the chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, Aurel Vainer, and representatives of the cultural and diplomatic community in Bucharest. Referring to his acquaintance with Romania and Romanians, as a child in Jerusalem, getting to know “Romanian Jews”, the Israeli writer said the ties between the two countries had been strained at times, but pointed out there were also happy times.As he spoke about his “marriage” with his 12 books, Amos Oz confessed that “you have to make compromises all the time” in such a relationship. “A novel is not built out of ideas, out of characters, but out of words, out of compromises,” the writer argued, revealing that “hundreds of decisions have to be made” in the writing of a novel, that “as is the case during a musical recital, no one pays attention to any individual note, unless it’s sour”. He professed his faith in “compromise as a humanitarian principle” and confessed that, in his personal vocabulary, “compromise is synonymous with life”. Well-known for his trenchant political stances, Amos Oz took pains to explain that an earlier statement of his, to the effect that Europe was the absolute tyrant to its victims, the Israelis and the Palestinians, had been misinterpreted, as he had not been referring “to European history, but to the joint history of the Arab and Jewish people”. “I know that many European people were victims of Europe, of bloody wars and nationalist tendencies, (…) but I bear a certain ambivalence within me, Jewish and European,” Oz added. The writer went on to explain that for him the conflict between the Israelis and the Arabs was “a conflict between siblings, sons of the same violent father, who see in each other the likeness of the same oppressive figure from their past”. “Israel is not a nation, a people or a country, it is a heated debate,” the writer argued. He underlined that he loved his country even when he could no longer stand it, just as he loved Europe, which he called “a romantic disappointment”. To Amos Oz’s mind, “communism and Nazism have a lot in common”, insofar as both left historical “wounds” behind, and he could only account for some people’s nostalgic attachment to communism in terms of their clinging to an illusion about this system. Amos Oz was also yesterday the Doctor Honoris Causa title by the University of Bucharest in a ceremony at the Faculty of Law. “It is an honour to be made Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Bucharest, as Romania is not entirely a foreign country to me. (…) There are Romanian genes in the culture of Israel, as there are Jewish genes in Romanian culture,” Amos Oz argued.

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