ONE
In the Land of Israel

IN 1968, one year after the six-day war, Amos Oz My Michael was published, the novel which established his international reputation. 1 At one point in the book, the Michael of the title explains to Hannah, the woman narrator of the story, the principles of geomorphology--a discipline, as he puts it, which lies on the border between geography and geology:

Most people are of the mistaken opinion that the earth was formed and created once and for all many millions of years ago. In fact, the earth's surface is constantly coming into being. If we may employ the popular concept of 'creation' we can say that the earth is continuously being created. Even while we are sitting here talking. Different and even opposed factors co-operate in forming and changing both the visible contours and also the underground features which we cannot perceive. 2

Hannah is not interested in Michael's profession--the novel tens the story, in her voice, of her sexual, emotional, and political disaffection from him-- but on one occasion she looks over his shoulder as he writes:

The words made me shudder: Extraction of mineral-deposits. Volcanic forces press- ing outwards. Solidified lava. Basalt. Consequent and subsequent streams. A morphotectonic process which began thousands of years ago and is still continuing. Gradual disintegration, sudden disintegration. Seismic disturbances so slight that they can be detected only by the slightest instruments. 3

What, we might ask--rephrasing these two passages--goes on under the surface of the earth? Is it beneficient or harmful, continuous or complete; how can we get in touch with it, and do we need to do so? What, exactly, in terms of time, solidity, disintegration, is happening beneath our feet? Questions for the geomorphologist, but also, it would seem, for the literary

-19-

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States of Fantasy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction States of Fantasy 1
  • Part One the Clarendon Lectures 17
  • One in the Land of Israel 19
  • Two Black Hamlet 38
  • Three the English at Their Best 56
  • Four Just, Lasting, Comprehensive 78
  • Part Two the Limits of Culture 97
  • Five on the 'Universality" of Madness: Bessie Head's a Question of Power 99
  • Six Dorothy Richardson and the Jew 117
  • Afterword Freud and the Crisis of Our Culture 133
  • Notes 150
  • Index 171
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