"What Oz has mastered in form, he has since lost in intensity"by Ben Judah / January 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in February 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
Judas by Amos Oz, translated by Nicholas De Lange (Chatto & Windus, £18.99)
Christianity is at its heart a story about two Jews: Jesus and Judas. Published in Hebrew as The Gospel According to Judas, the latest novel by Amos Oz, Israel and the Jewish world’s most beloved writer, attempts to reclaim, and retell, the story that he believes is ultimately responsible for the pogroms and death camps. In the process Oz wishes to redeem the nature of treachery itself.
Oz has written so well for so long, the craft shows. Judas reads quickly, and gracefully, without a superfluous page. Its moral vision will, I hope, draw Oz to the attention of the Nobel Committee. But to me he is now a lesser writer than the one who published Where the Jackals Howl and My Michael in the 1960s: two works so brutal and moving that no matter how scrappy and confusing they sometimes feel, they are unsurpassed triumphs of Hebrew fiction.
What Oz has mastered in form, he has since lost in intensity: the horror of the other; the x-rays that revealed Israel—“a refugee camp, where everyone has seen the devil.” The vigour that once made readers tremble has drained from his writing. The ideas feel slightly convoluted. The characters never wholly emerge. This makes reading Judas like having tea with your grandfather: time spent with a comforting voice that you love, but who has started to repeat himself.