Amos Oz

Biography for Amos Oz

He was born Amos Klausner on May 4, 1939 in Jerusalem. He was the only child of two immigrants, Yehuda Klausner and Fania Mussman. His father, Yehuda, was a frustrated academic who had wanted to become a literature professor but instead spent his career as a librarian at the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. His mother suffered from depression and committed suicide when her son was twelve.

Oz grew up during a turbulent time in the British Mandate of Palestine. World War II erupted during his first year of life, and the state of Israel was created when he was nine. This event was preceded by years of violence and by the death of many on both sides of the conflict, including people Oz knew.

Oz's father was influenced by the right-wing political ideas of Vladimir Jabotinsky, a Jewish Zionist leader. His son rejected this philosophy and instead left home as a fifteen-year-old to join a kibbutz, a living community that practiced socialist ideals. Whereas his father and other relatives were constantly talking about politics, Oz wanted to practice politics. As a rejection of his heritage, he changed his last name to Oz, a Hebrew word meaning "strength."

At Kibbutz Hulda, where he lived during the ensuing years, Oz was engaged in agricultural labor. He also read widely and became well-versed in literature and politics. He left the kibbutz for three years to serve in the Israeli army and again for two years to study at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Oz graduated in philosophy and Hebrew literature and began teaching.

In 1960 Oz married Nily Zuckerman. They had three children and continued to live at Kibbutz Hulda until 1986. During this time Oz spent a year as a visiting fellow at St. Cross College in Oxford.

Oz published his first book, written in Hebrew, the short story collection Where the Jackals Howl (1965). It was quickly followed by his first novel, Elsewhere, Perhaps (1966). The next novel, My Michael (1968), was a best-seller and secured Oz's reputation. This was only the beginning of a prolific output of books.

Among his many other works are the novels A Perfect Peace (1982), Black Box (1986), Panther in the Basement (1998), the short story volume Between Friends (2012), and the novel Judas (2014).
Oz's nonfiction works include The slopes of Lebanon (1989), The Story Begins: Essays on Literature (1999), and the autobiographical novel A Tale of Love and Darkness (2002). The latter was named one of the ten best books written in modern Israel. In the essay collection How to Cure a Fanatic (2006), Oz discusses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Oz is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Bialik Prize, French Prix Femina Etranger, Israel Prize, Ovid Prize, Goethe Prize, Heinrich Heine Prize, Franz Kafka Prize, and the Order of Civil Merit.

After several decades at Kibbutz Hulda, Oz and his family moved to Arad, Israel, a town on the northern border of the Negev. He taught Hebrew literature at nearby Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva.


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