Judas – Amos Oz

(Tr. Nicholas de Lange)

“In many flats in Jerusalem you might find van Gogh’s starry whirlpool skies or his shimmering cypresses on the living room wall, rush mats on the floors of the small rooms, and Doctor Zhivago or Yizhar’s Days of Ziklag lying open, face down, on a foam sofa-bed that was covered with a length of Middle-Eastern cloth and piled with embroidered cushions.”

Dear Mr. Oz, you had me at van Gogh.

I can hear you now, ‘but you vehemently dislike novels centered around religious content’ and yes, yes, yes you would be right. But, we all know that people only grow with trying new things and getting out of their comfort zone. So here we are. I’m out on a limb. I have zero (absolute zilch) knowledge about Christianity, the Bible, Jesus and religion in general. So, let’s talk about why I adored this novel and wished I had bought it so I could’ve underlined the crap out of it because I’m sure the library frowns upon such methods.

  • The writing style. Oz’s characterizations. His subtle warmth, delicate humour, absolutely vivid and stunning scene setting.

“Professor Eisenschloss was a small, compact man with thick beer-bottle lenses in his spectacles, and movements that reminded you of a cuckoo darting busily out of a clock.”

  • Short chapters. C’mon now, who doesn’t love a short, sweet chapter? Much like those who dislike cheese, prefer vanilla to chocolate and wear underwear in their own homes – untrustworthy I tell ye.

“Anyone willing to change, will always be considered a traitor by those who cannot change.”

  • Shmuel Ash.  How can you not love the guy?

“He suddenly wanted very much to live in that attic, to curl up inside it with a pile of books, a bottle of red wine, a stove, a quilt, a gramophone and some records, and not go outside, for lectures, debates or love affairs. To stay there and never leave, at least while it was cold outside.”

Something tells me that Shmuel and I are the same person, maybe not all the time, but definitely at times – we have our moments. Disclaimer: I have worked as a carer looking after the elderly for over five years, so I may be a tad biased.

I also adored Atalia. I would like to talk more about her, but I can’t find the words at present.

“And on the ceiling of your attic room, directly over your bed, oceans and continents take shape in the cracking plaster: you lie on your back for hours on end gazing at the archipelago of peeling plaster, islands, reefs, gulfs, volcanoes, fjords.”

Basically, if Amos Oz doesn’t win the MBI I’m not sure what I will do. That being said, I’ve only read half the shortlist, but if a compassionate, soft-spoken, affecting story that can entertain a self confessed agnostic/atheist cannot win a major literary prize, then what can?

“A slanting beam of sunlight filtered through the slats of the shutters, and innumerable tiny specks of dust whirled in it, like so many brightly-lit worlds in a shining milky way.”

This was my first Amos Oz, and it definitely won’t be my last.