Sometimes events do have a way of coinciding at the same time. When I was reading ‘Black Box’ there was a huge fracas about the divorce bill being passed in parliament and whether or not if it was going to go through despite the fact that 52% of the Maltese population wanted it (there was a referendum in May) Black Box touches upon the subject of divorce, and this being Amos Oz, much more.
It’s a simple story. Through various letters and telegrams and estranged wife is asking for her husband for funds as their wayward son has caused more problems than the wife and her new husband can handle. From then onwards we discover the couple’s past and the role other characters – mainly the new husband, Michel and the ex’s lawyer, Manfred , and the son Boaz – had to play in the shaping of their destinies. Both parties have not acted as they should and yet it seems that love is being rekindled. This is further emphasised in the final letter when the ex husband undertakes a decision that affects everyone. It is also one of the most melancholy uplifting pieces I’ve read so far.
Incidentally the Black Box is Boaz. Although the couple’s marriage was like a plane crash there was one surviving feature that has remained indestructible.
Black Box is a brilliant novel. I loved every bit of it. If I could describe it in one word it would have to be ‘Poignant’
I first encountered Oz’s books back in 2003 when a friend of mine suggested I read ‘Fima’, mainly because of the derogatory way he portrays a Maltese woman. That aside I thought it was a very good novel and enjoyed reading it.
My second attempt (within the same year) was ‘Panther in the Basement’ and I didn’t like that one at all. After six years ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ comes into my life and is the tiebreaker.
One aspect about my character is that I hate leaving a book half finished, no matter how dull, I feel that I have to read it till the very end or I won’t be able to give a full criticism and the first 200 pages of this book are a tough slog. After that the novel shifts it’s focus and it’s an easier ride.
Essentially this is an autobiography. As one can see Oz had a lot of demons to be exorcised and A Tale of Love and Darkness is, indeed a personal work. Suicide, death and war all feature and we get Oz’s views and commentaries on each of these life happenings.
That is not to say that the reader feels shunned, in fact the book invites you to share Oz’s life and take part in his trials and tribulations. There a light moments as well.
Like all good autobiographies personal history is linked with world events and the period that Amos Oz focuses on is the Jewish migration of the 1930’s to the 1947 Israel/Arab war. A famous cast of characters from Ben-Gurion to Isiah Berlin all make an appearance at one point or another.
Despite all this the stress is on Oz’s mother’s suicide, in which changes his life completely. Though this is a cleverly written book and we don’t really get the method till the very last chapter. The remaining 61 deal with the events leading to and the repercussions of this act.
If you have patience then this can be a very rewarding book. Insightful , tender and sometimes harrowing this is one book that resonates in the memory long after it has been read.