Amos Oz, a writer of international repute and a political activist who always fought for a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians in Israel , visited Oslo in connection with the publication of Norwegian edition of his novel " The Third Condition".Ragtime had a talk with him. At home in Iarael Oz is a controversial writer , yet his books in original Hebrew editions , prior to paperback editions , have sold 70.000copies. His books are translated in 28 different languages incuding Arabic. The bulk of his writings consists of novels,short stories and essays, a number of which deals with the IsraeliPalestinian questions. Oz wrote his first novel at the age of 24.
His parents encouraged him to write.His father came from Russia and mother from Ukrain. They met in Jerusalem . Amos Oz was born in 1939. He told us that although his parents spoke some European languages, they never encouraged him to learn any European languages because in their hearts they feared that their son would leave Israel for Europe.At school he was tought Hebrew, the state language of Israel. He, however liked Russian litterature of 19th century and the 20th century literary tradition of central Europe. He said that one can trace their influence in his novels.
Ragtime: How do you find a beggining to your novel? Are they culmination of your thoughts or are they wellplanned?
A.O: I always begin with people, not with ideas, not even with a plot or a setting. It really begins with a collection of voicesvoices I heard from my experiences of meeting friends and unfriendly hostile people.
Ragtime: Is it a long process from the first voice to a finished product?
AO: Immensely long process. At first I don`t write I just think of these voices. I do not start Until I have a definite idea of the story. In course of writing the story changes a great deal.
Ragtime: Do you feel responsible for your words in your writing?
AO. I certainly do. I have nothing butwords, they are the only way i can relate to people. Irresponsible use of words is very often an early syndrome of disaster.
Ragtime:What do you think of your first novel, Touch the water, touch the wind?
AO. It is a novel about a strong emotional attachment in the midst of holocaust in Europe. It is some sort of theological science fiction with a holocaust in the background. Actually holocaust imples a metaphysical event like a natural catastrophe. For example, an inferno. But holocaust in terms of the Nazis was a mass murder of the European jews.
Ragtime: You have contributed to the cultural exchange between Palestanians and Israelis.
AO. I hope to see more of it. My books are translated in Arabic. A cultural exchange together with personal contact can remove a great many conflicts. Every conflict is a result of a misunderstanding. Therefore, a conflict should be resolved through a painful compromise.
Ragtime. Do you strongly feel yourself as a jew or in other words as an Israeli?
AO. There are hundred ways of being a Jew. Family tradition is very strong amongt the jews. A family is a most serious institution for a jew. No single person can represent Israel, a country.
Ragtime : Do you take any side on the questions of Palestanians and Israelis?
AO: No, I do not represent any side. Either Palestanians or Israelis. Everybody has a divided mind. I try to represent myself.
Ragtime: You were born and brought up in Israel.(erstwhile Palestine) and were given education in Hebrew.But the question remains: why do you find the influence of the great Russian writers in your novels?
AO. I am very fond of Russian literature of the 19th century. I find a deep kinship with them. It has had a great impact on me.
Ragtime. Your novel"The Third Condition" has been a controversial book. When it was first published in Israel because some reacted strongly against it.
AO. It was apparent that many readers bought the book to be annoyed and not to be entertained. This is how the Israeli readers read a book, not to get the pleasure of the text but to argue with the writer.
Ragtime: Did your reader take the novel seriously?
AO. Some of them really did.Fima was a comic figure . Gaza has become a major breakthrough. This is exactly what Fima has been thinking, Sometimes an idiot has the right answer. I did not expect Fima`s vision to be a political reality.
Ragtime. What does the title "The Third Condition" mean?
AO. The novel is about obsessions, Fima is some sort of a clown. He is good without doing any good. The title third condition is the condition between dream and daily life. Not only that. It has a harmonious condition that has mystical referances in Kabbala. It is a longing for an world where no more decisions will be taken. If you give Fima a choice between taking a walk or taking a nap, he would have a great difficulty to choose. In the end Fima takes a walk in his pyjamas. In a comical way this means that the disharmonious thoughts in his mind are vanished.
Ragtime. You have been a central figure in the peace movement. What is your concept of peace ?
AO. In the sixties the famous slogan was `make love not war`But I think the opposite of war is not love but peace. Peace is something that is to be established between enemies, not between friends. There is no need to have peace between Israel and Norway. But there is every reason to create peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Ragtime. What would be your message to the people of Israel?
AO. You see, in Israel many people expects us, writers, and poets to be prophets. The writers should tell people in which direction they should move . In other words, the writers should be their moral guide. Let me not forget that in olden times the prophets of Israel did not always have a big success in changing the hearts of the people.
Ragtime. Do you think it is right for a writere to make political propaganda?
AO. A writer cannot be indifferent to the political problems, since he is part of political life of society. My answer is compromise. Amos Oz , an ardent supporter of a Palestinian state asserts that a selfgovernment in Gaza and Jeriko will be an excellent start.
- Avanti Flatabø