Between Friends

Written by Amos Oz Sondra Silverston (trans.)
Review by Viviane Crystal

Life on a kibbutz in the 1950s consisted of both “old” and “younger” residents. The older obviously leaned strongly toward the original Socialist philosophy and goals, while the younger wanted to experience all that the new post-WWII world offered in terms of education and city life. Well-known writer Amos Oz here presents separate yet interrelated short stories offering a panoramic view of communal life.

We meet Zvi Provizor, known to the kibbutz residents as the “Angel of Death” due to his constant delivery of every piece of bad news occurring locally, nationally and internationally. Or perhaps you might prefer Osnat, who loses her husband to Ariella Barash, who writes to Osnat, lamenting that her gain has been another woman’s loss but which could be their intimate bond. Then there’s Nahum Asherov, who enjoys a close bond with his daughter, Edna, until she begins living with David Dagan, a teacher and Nahum’s friend. What is to be said or done about this relationship between a young woman and a man thirty years her senior? David Dagan appears in other stories, with his proverbial response to every issue, “Just give me a moment to set things straight.” The little boy whose parents are powerless to stop his abuse is sympathetic and leaves a devastating feeling in the reader.

All of these stories end in a flat style, as if the author were saying this is life on the kibbutz is a realistic microcosm of futile development and ends. In this stark and searing work, Oz depicts and satirizes the foibles of all-too-human men and women who aspire to the highest ideals. Highly recommended historical fiction!