Amos Oz was nine-years-old when Israel came into being in 1948, and he and the nation grew up alongside one another. He was one of the first to advocate a two-state solution with the Palestinians in 1967 – a radical proposition at the time – writing a piece arguing for its necessity in the days following the Six-Day War (a conflict Oz himself fought in).
In Oz’s fiction, the land of Israel is a recurring character and presence, but he was quick to dismiss those who saw his novels and short stories as mere political allegory. Like his hero Anton Chekhov, he became his characters in quiet but intense evocations of familial resentment, love triangles, paralysing inaction and how families are weathered by the storms of history.
His gift was to express difficult moral issues with a single metaphor that caught the complexity and tragedy of a situation. He once referred to the Jews and Arabs as like the children of the same abusive father: Europe. And it was Oz the man – charismatic, cool-eyed, scarred by war – that was a vital part of his literary allure. From an early age he sought out this new Israeli identity, changing his name at the age of fifteen from Klausner to Oz: Hebrew for strength. For many around the world, he was the living embodiment of Israel at its humane, courageous best.