Between God and Beast: An Examination of Amos Oz's Prose

Between God and Beast: An Examination of Amos Oz's Prose

Between God and Beast: An Examination of Amos Oz's Prose

Between God and Beast: An Examination of Amos Oz's Prose

Synopsis

In Between God and Beast, Avraham Balaban argues that Oz's fiction has, from the outset, followed Jung's psychological theory. The major psychic processes that are depicted throughout Oz's prose are typically Jungian. For example, the treasure hunt, which is the deep structure of many of Oz's stories and novels, reflects the search for the "self" in which all the vying forces of one's psyche coexist peacefully. Oz uses many of the symbols of the treasure as well as of the self as they are presented by Jung. Many of the symbols examined in this study have never before been discussed in articles about Oz's writings.

Balaban also devotes a considerable portion of his study to the religious dimension of Oz's work as well as the impact of his personal life on his writings. Balaban reveals that from the beginning Oz's work has moved in two directions: it demonstrates an unceasing effort to delve ever deeper into the dark side of consciousness while heightening the contrast between the opposing elements vying within his protagonists; and it consistently attempts to bring those oppositions to peaceful coexistence and even to a fruitful mutual relationship.

Excerpt

In interviews he gave on the occasion of the publication of his first book, Where the Jackals Howl (1965), Amos Oz said:

I don't believe that the focus of human misery lies in the social realm, and I don't believe that setting society right means uprooting that misery. (1965b)

One who assumes that man's main problems are in the social realm might assume that there is a solution to these problems. Certainly then misery appears less awesome, because somewhere, at least in some distant utopia, an existence without misery is hinted. . . . One who assumes that the focus of misery originates in the tension between man and the basic components of human existence -- the soul, the urges, death, even the unexplained sadness -- such a man cannot promise himself even a distant utopia. (1965c)

The notion that human misery originates in the human "soul" appears repeatedly in Oz's interviews in which he compares societal problems to a chain of hills above which loom "crests of mountains of the main existential problems: death, Eros, the other" (1968b, 1978d). This metaphor also appears in Srulik's journal in the final pages of A Perfet Peace: "I say 'the battle' -- yet as soon as I say it, I sense, staring down at me through the thin curtain of ideology, the peaks of savage mountains of a suffering far more primeval. the very suffering that drives all of us to look constantly for battlefields, for 'challenges,' to fight, to defeat, to win" (1982, 371; English edition 1985, 363).

The notion of ideology as but a thin film ("a curtain") over primordial urges is conveyed throughout Oz's work. "The peaks of savage mountains," the primeval forces in the human psyche, have spellbound Oz from his very start as a writer. His protagonists set out again and again on journeys with the desire to understand these peaks and the forces throbbing within them, and to attempt to learn to live with . . .

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