Amos Oz | Mirjam Pressler
“In his novel, Amos Oz is masterfully able to convey the big issues and conflicts of religious and contemporary history in the Middle East. He interlaces ancient times with the present, contrasting the conflict between Judaism and Christianity with modern Jewish-Palestinian reality. With his three characters – naïve, indecisive Shmuel Asch, the aged cynic Gershom Wald and his widowed daughter-in-law Athaliah Abrabanel – the author confidently reflects his knowledge of political history, thus creating an unconventional piece of world literature. The novel ‘Judas’ newly poses the question of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity based on the biblical Judas. He links the issue of betrayal with the actual political events during the founding phase of the State of Israel and in the ongoing Middle East conflict. The book’s secret is the way it portrays the moods among the conflicting parties, mirrored in the conversations of the three protagonists. In her German translation, Mirjam Pressler is able to convey a fine nuance of the atmosphere that permeates and carries this intelligent and multi-layered work.” (The jury on the 2015 award winners)
The life of the young Shmuel Asch changes radically in the winter of 1959. His girlfriend leaves him, his parents declare bankruptcy and he has to break off his studies. He finds shelter and work in an old house in Jerusalem as a companion for the rhetorically skilful and peculiar Gershom Wald. There he meets the beautiful and unapproachable Athaliah Abrabanel, daughter of a deceased leader of the Zionist movement. The novel’s three protagonists live withdrawn lives on the edge of the city. But desire and curiosity are transformed into desperate infatuation, breaking loose a storm inside the shy and sensitive Shmuel and he again begins to work on his graduation thesis on “Jesus from the Perspective of the Jews,” becomes lost in the mysterious pull exerted on him by Judas Iscariot, the incarnation of treachery and baseness, and at night talks with Gershom Wald about the ideals of Zionism, Jewish-Arab conflicts, in short, about everything under the sun. Gradually he decrypts the secrets of the inhabitants of the lonely house, their involvement and the human tragedy before and after the establishment of Israel in the year 1948.
About the author
Amos Oz was born in 1939 as Amos Klausner in Jerusalem, where he spent his childhood. In 1954 he joined the Chulda kibbutz and adopted the name Oz. He studied literature and philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1960 until 1963, returning to the kibbutz after completing his Bachelor’s degree. He is a co-founder and outstanding representative of the peace movement Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), founded in 1977. Until 2005 he taught Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba. He has received many prizes and awards for his works, which have been translated into 37 languages.
Recent publications in German translation:
Unter Freunden, translated from the Hebrew by Mirjam Pressler; Suhrkamp Verlag 2013 (Ben haverim; Keter, Jerusalem 2012)
Amos Oz & Fania Oz-Salzberger: Juden und Worte, translated from the English by Eva Maria Thimme; Jüdischer Verlag 2013 (Jews and Words; Yale University Press, New Haven 2012)
Geschichten aus Tel Ilan, translated from the Hebrew by Mirjam Pressler; Suhrkamp Verlag 2009 (Tmunot me-chajej ha-kfar; Keter, Jerusalem 2009)
About the translator
Mirjam Pressler, born in Darmstadt in 1940, is an author and translator from the Hebrew, English and Dutch. Her more than 30 books for children and young people as well as her translations have received many awards including the German Children’s Literature Award, the Carl Zuckmayer Medal for Merits in the German Language and the Buber Rosenzweig Medal. She has translated works by Aharon Appelfeld, David Grossmann, Zeruya Shalev, John Steinbeck and other writers. For her translation of Judas she received the 2015 Prize from the Leipzig Book Fair in the translation category.
Zeruya Shalev: Schmerz, translated from the Hebrew; Berlin Verlag 2015 (Ke’ev, Keter, Jerusalem 2015)
Lizzie Doron: Eine unmögliche Freundschaft, translated from the Hebrew; Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag 2015 (not yet published in Hebrew)
Mira Magén: Wodka und Brot, translated from the Hebrew; Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag 2015 (Vodka ve Lechem, Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir, Or Jehuda 2012)
Aharon Appelfeld: Auf der Lichtung, translated from the Hebrew; Rowohlt Berlin Verlag 2014 (ʿAd hod ha-tsaʿar Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir, Or Jehuda 2012)
Hila Blum: Der Besuch, translated from the Hebrew; Berlin Verlag 2014 (Ha-bikur; Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir, Or Jehuda 2011)
Amoz Oz: Unter Freunden, translated from the Hebrew; Suhrkamp Verlag 2013 (Ben haverim; Keter, Jerusalem 2012)
Wer morgens lacht, Beltz & Gelberg 2014
Ein Buch für Hanna; Beltz & Gelberg 2011