Page 31 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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This cry of disdain for her husband’s world prepares us for the
climax of the story. The parents are invited to the High Commis­
sioner’s Ball in appreciation for some slight medical service the
veterinarian father has rendered to the High Commissioner’s sis­
ter-in-law. The beautiful mother is a Cinderella at the Ball only to
end up in the arms of the Admiral ofMalta who carries her off first
to Jericho and then to Bombay, Baghdad and Calcutta. In contrast
to the nightmarish quality of
My Michael
, there is an almost fairy­
tale aspect to the mother’s tale. This, in spite of the poignancy of
the father’s position as he futdlely waits for his wife hours after the
ball is over. The now motherless son climbs to the top of a tree to
discover that the sky is empty.
In this beautifully wrought story, the mother is captivated by the
glamour of English upper class living which stands in contrast to
the world ofJews at the ball who seem weakly and provincial, beg­
ging for crumbs at the political table. The alternative values, the
worldliness the mother yearns for, put the Zionists into limited
perspective, just as Hannah’s world of violence and fantasy exposes
the smallness and grayness of Michael’s world.
Amos Oz’s complex, destructive women and the yearning, vio­
lent underside of Israeli life which they symbolize are not without
roots in his personal biography. He has described in his book of es­
says,
Under This Blazing Sun
, growing up in a crazed Jerusalem of
fanatics and seekers of all kinds, the son of intellectual, Europe-
hungry parents. When he was twelve, his mother committed sui­
cide. At fourteen he left his father, a right wing literary historian,
to go to a kibbutz where he attempted to suppress his rich but
nightmarish background by transforming himself into a simple Is­
raeli farmer, the idea of the new Jew, free of Jewish neuroses. But
his personal background and the deep Jewish nightmares of his
tribe were to haunt this kibbutz member and ruffle this front of
normalcy. Art serves to bring Oz’s suppressed side to the surface
through the women in his stories who expose the neuroses and
nightmares of the land. In what might seem like an attempt to
grapple with the despair that brought his mother to take her life,
Oz has written penetrating portraits of women. The nihilism and
Images o f Women