Friday, December 16, 2016

Judas / Amos Oz, 305 pp.

It is 1959 in Jerusalem when Shmuel Ash goes adrift.  His girlfriend has left him and he no longer has funds to continue his graduate studies.  So he takes a job as a companion to Gershom Wald, an elderly man who lives with a mysterious woman named Atalia in an old Jerusalem home.  Wald and Atalia are secretive.  What is their relationship?  Why are they so extraordinarily isolated?   The three principals reveal secrets slowly throughout this novel.

Shmuel's graduate research was on Jewish views of Jesus and the role of Judas in the story of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.  In Shmuel's musings, Oz opens up the character of Judas and connects him to 20th century Israeli politics and the founding of the state of Israel.  Even deeper, the novel reflects on what it means to be a traitor.  While the humanizing of Judas and alternative versions of his story are not new in literature (or in song...), this subtle, layered, almost delicate novel refreshes the view and resonates.  Recommended.

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