Author Amos Oz speaks on
By Joanna Chen | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Feb 14, 2008 | Updated: 5:49 p.m. ET Feb 14, 2008
Amos Oz is an Israeli author of international acclaim whose works have been translated into more than 45 languages. In May, along with playwright Tom Stoppard and former
NEWSWEEK: What do you think makes your writing so accessible to people all over the world?
Amos Oz: I suppose there is something universal in the provincial. My books are very local, but in a strange way I find that the more local, parochial and provincial, the more universal literature can be.
Why have so few of your books been translated into Arabic?
The Arabic translation matters to me more than any other. It's the one I feel involved in most. Unfortunately, there is a wall of resistance with the Arab countries. Many Arab publishers won't touch anything coming from
What have you done to remedy this?
"A Tale of Love and Darkness" is now being translated into Arabic by the family of George Khoury, a Palestinian-Israeli student who was shot in the head by terrorists who mistook him for a Jew while jogging in Jerusalem. I'm very moved by this and by the very noble decision of the family to treat this book as a bridge between the nations.
What role do you think the past plays in determining the future of this region?
The past almost dominates this region—it doesn't just play a role. I think this is one of the tragedies of this region. People remember too well and they remember too much. Both Jews and Arabs carry deep injuries, dramatic injuries.
Should the two sides put these memories away and get on with correcting the present?
We can do that. We can also use our memories as building material for the future. We can say, for example, these particular traumatic memories [serve as] a lesson in how to treat other people, how we should treat our own minorities. This is one way to deal with the past.
You've talked about a compromise of pain and clenched teeth. Can't there be a happy ending?
No, I don't believe in a happy ending to this kind of tragic conflict. Essentially because this is a conflict between right and right. Any compromise will mean concession; it will mean renouncing something which both parties very strongly regard as their own, and both parties had very good reasons to regard as their own, so a compromise will be like an amputation for both sides. There are no happy compromises.