Literary Parallels Stemming from a Resemblance in the Authors' Creative Development: The Extraordinary Similarities between Amos Oz's the Same Sea and James Joyce's Finnegans Wake

Article excerpt

This paper presents outstanding parallels between the books The Same Sea by Amos Oz, the well-known Israeli writer, and James Joyce's masterpiece Finngeans Wake. The parallels between the works - in terms of plot, structure, ideas, language, style and more - are explained mainly in light of the fact that both were written at an equivalent stage in the writers' lives and creative development, after a very similar literary itinerary, which led them to regard human lives and to create in an amazingly similar way. This extraordinary resemblance helps us understand both works and sheds new light on both authors' creative development.

keywords: bAmos Oz, James Joyce, The Same Sea, Finngeans Wake, Creative Development, writers' psychology


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Both James Joyce and Amos Oz, at a similar stage of their lives and creative careers1, wrote a work of art, which was very different from all their previous ones - a much more playful, poetical, hard-to-access, post-modernist book. This paper will point out some outstanding parallels between these two works, in terms of plot, structure, ideas, language, style and more.

In trying to unravel the sources of the intriguing, sometimes even uncanny, resemblance between these two masterpieces, I turned to Oz himself and asked him whether there might have been a direct influence of Joyce on him. Oz stated clearly that he had never read FW, though he had been an admirer of Joyce most of his life (Anyway, he himself was overwhelmed by the comparison and encouraged me to publish it2).

Thus, the similarities between the works are not attributed in this paper to a direct influence but rather to the fact that both were written at a very similar stage in the writers' lives and creative development, and after having a very equivalent literary itinerary, which led them to regard human lives and to create in an amazingly similar way.

The plot of TSS, which spreads over one year, concerns a family in Bat-Yam (a satellite town of Tel-Aviv): Albert, the father, is a middle-aged tax-accountant. His wife, Nadia, has died a short time earlier, of cancer of the ovaries, yet she keeps appearing in the novel in different phases of her life and even after her death. Their only son, Rico, travels to the Far East after his mother's death. He befriends a prostitute named Maria, and encounters several other characters, including four Dutch men. Rico's ex-girlfriend, Ditta, who remains in Israel, has written a script, which a young man named Dovi Dobromov is supposed to produce and another man, named Gigi Ben-Gal, is expected to finance. Both of them are attracted to Ditta. For some time, Ditta lives in Alber's house, during which various feelings are aroused in him towards her - including fatherly and erotic passions. Meanwhile, Albert also befriends a middle-aged widow named Bettin. Later, Ditta moves to a rented apartment, and when Albert comes to visit her, she apparently lets him look at her and probably even touch her while taking a shower. Another character in the novel is that of the narrator himself, which is the author's self.

Parallels in Plot and Characters

The resemblance between the two books stems mainly from the fact that both of them set out to present, through the story of one 'ordinary' family, during a limited time period - one night in FW and one year in TSS - a universal myth of the human experience.

At the center of both novels stands the father figure - Albert in TSS and HCE in FW. Both are middle-aged men, with 'simple' vocations. Both of them are dealing with their advancing age, approaching death, and the death of their wives. The main event related to the father figure in both books is associated with his attraction to a young woman: HCE exposes himself and/or looks at the girls in the park - which emerges in different versions, such as an imagined trial, and the questioning of his son; Albert watches and touches Ditta in the shower. …