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Politics and the Israeli Novel

- Abstract

Politics and the Israeli Novel Hillel Halkin “There is no real role for politics in my novels,” the Israeli author Amos Oz was quoted as saying in a December New York Times article about him, A.B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman, the reigning triumvirate of contemporary Israeli fiction. “I have never written a story,” Oz continued, “in order to tell the Israelis to stop building settlements or to tell the government to stop putting pressure on the Palestinians. That is the realm of bad fiction.”

In discussing the place of politics in the literary careers of Oz, Yehoshua, and Grossman—all three are active in the Israeli “peace movement” and were participants in the recent “Geneva Initiative”—the author of the Times article, Amy Wilentz, observed that Oz in particular is “adamant about the division between his fictional writing and his political work.” But the same division is basic to all three. “Read [their] nonfiction, and you will find essayists and reporters profoundly involved with the political life of their times. Read their fiction, and it is like listening to the inner workings of anyone’s heart.” In interviews, Wilentz reported, all three “said that they suffered from the classic problem of writers in times of trouble, what could be called creative dissonance, in which fiction and nonfiction seem almost to come into conflict.”

About the Author

Hillel Halkin is a columnist for the New York Sun and a veteran contributor to COMMENTARY. Portions of the present essay were delivered at Northwestern University in March as the Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization.