Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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FURSTENBERG / WOMAN IN ISRAELI LITERATURE
39
o f refinem ent in this rough land , this gentle woman yearns for
distant lands and de sp a irs that “ there will never be a river, cathe­
dral, or fore st h e re .” In one o f her few ou tbursts in the story, the
mother rails aga in st the political and philosophical involvements
o f her husband. “ I want you to know how much I loathe, yes
loathe, your Wertheimers, Bubers, and Shertoks. I wish your
terrorists would blow them u p .”
Th is cry o f d isdain fo r her hu sband ’s world p rep are s us fo r the
climax o f the story. T h e paren ts are invited to the H igh Comm is­
sioner’s Ball in appreciation for some slight medical service the
veterinarian father has rendered to the High Comm issioner’s
sister-in-law. T h e beau tifu l mother is a C inderella at the Ball only
to end up in the arm s o f the Adm iral o f Malta who carries her o f f
first to Je r ich o and then to Bombay, Baghd ad and Calcutta. In
contrast to the n ightmarish quality o f “My Michael,” there is an
almost fairy-tale aspect to the mo ther’s tale. Th is , in spite o f the
poignancy o f the fa th er ’s position as he futilely waits for his wife
hours after the ball is over. Th e now motherless son climbs to the
top o f a tree to discover that the sky is empty.
In this beautifully wrought story, the mother is captivated by
the glamour o f English u pp er class living which stands in contrast
to the world o f Jew s at the ball who seem weakly and provincial,
begg ing for crumbs at the political table. Th e alternative values,
the worldliness the mother yearns for, puts the Zionists into
limited perspective, ju s t as H ann ah ’s world o f violence and fan ­
tasy exposes the smallness and grayness o f Michael’s world.
Amos Oz’ complex , destructive women and the yearning, vio­
lent underside o f Israeli life which they symbolize are not without
roots in his persona l biography. He has described in his book o f
essays, “U nd er T h is Blazing S un ,” grow ing up in a crazed J e r u s a ­
lem o f fanatics and seekers o f all kinds, the son o f intellectual,
European-hungry paren ts. When he was twelve his mo ther com­
mitted suicide. At fourteen he left his father , a right wing literary
historian to go to a kibbutz where he attempted to supp re ss his
rich but n ightmarish background by transform ing h im self into a
simple Israeli farm e r , the ideal o f the new Jew free o f Jew ish
neuroses. Bu t his persona l background and the deep Jew ish
n ightm ares o f his tribe were to haunt this kibbutz member and
ru ffle this fron t o f normalcy. A rt serves to bring Oz’ suppre ssed
side to the surface through the women in his stories who expose
the neu roses and nigh tm ares o f the land. In what might seem like