A celebrated novelist and an acclaimed historian of ideas, father and daughter, unravel the chain of words at the core of Jewish life, history, and culture
Why are words so important to so many Jews? Novelist Amos Oz and historian Fania Oz-Salzberger roam the gamut of Jewish history to explain the integral relationship of Jews and words. Through a blend of storytelling and scholarship, conversation and argument, father and daughter tell the tales behind Judaism’s most enduring names, adages, disputes, texts, and quips. These words, they argue, compose the chain connecting Abraham with the Jews of every subsequent generation.
Framing the discussion within such topics as continuity, women, timelessness, and individualism, Oz and Oz-Salzberger deftly engage Jewish personalities across the ages, from the unnamed, possibly female author of the Song of Songs through obscure Talmudists to contemporary writers. They suggest that Jewish continuity, even Jewish uniqueness, depends not on central places, monuments, heroic personalities, or rituals but rather on written words and an ongoing debate between the generations. Full of learning, lyricism, and humor, Jews and Words offers an extraordinary tour of the words at the heart of Jewish culture and extends a hand to the reader, any reader, to join the conversation.
Amos Oz is the internationally renowned author of more than twenty works of fiction and numerous essays on politics, literature, and peace. He is also professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. Fania Oz-Salzberger is a writer and history professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa.
Praise for Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness: "Both in his fiction and his essays, Oz has proven himself one of our essential writers, laying out for our observation, in ever-increasing breadth and profundity, the mad landscape of our time and his place—always enlarging the scope of his questions while avoiding the temptation of dogmatic answers."—Alberto Manguel, Washington Post Book World
"A charmingly funny book—not just humorous but sometimes downright hilarious. The essence of it is that the natural condition of the Jewish people—and the source of their resilience—is being in argument with the world, with one another and, to be sure, with God himself. But you cannot get the taste of this book, let alone its essence, without reading it."—Martin Peretz, Wall Street Journal
"A thought-provoking essay on language, literature and the eternal question of Jewish identity. . . . Jews and Words is filled with fascinating anecdotes and details. . . . A stimulating meditation on what it means to be a Jew and what it means to be a reader."—Wall Street Journal
"Playfully instructive. . . . Will appeal to lay readers interested in a nonreligious Judaism based on contemporary readings of traditional and more modern Jewish texts."—Publishers Weekly
"In [Jews and Words] . . . boisterous excitement over words and ideas generates a little paradise beyond politics. It opens up a garden of play and joy, of dispute without hate and passions without victims."—Independent
"[A] provocative, playful, speculative journey through the rich, centuries-old heritage of Jewish literature."—Natasha Lahrer, Jewish Chronicle
"Jews and words is a thought-provoking essay on language, literature and the eternal question of Jewish identity. . . . Filled with fascinating anecdotes and details, not least the etymologies of various words dating back to ancient Hebrew. . . . A stimulating meditation on what it means to be a Jew and what it means to be a reader."—Toby Lichtig, The Wall Street Journal Europe
"[An] exhilarating essay." —Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman
"In this provocative, playful, speculative journey through the rich, centuries-old heritage of Jewish literature, father and daughter Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger propose a 'textline' rather than a bloodline — a notion of Jewish lineage that is etched not in blood but in words."—Jewish Chronicle
"Jews and Words is a conversation between two people who love each other, informed by a wonderful sense of humor and a passionate yet measured analysis of language, people, and literature. Honesty shines through every paragraph of this terrific work."—Yehuda Bauer
Praise for Fania Oz-Salzberger’s Israelis in Berlin: "An exciting, deeply moving, masterly book. It combines a wealth of knowledge with great emotional power."—Zeruya Shalev
"Ingenious and thrilling, Jews and Words manages to cram more than 5,000 years of prayers, songs, stories, arguments, praises, curses and jokes into the suitcase of a thin, page-turning work of . . . what? History? Anthropology? Literary criticism? Theology? All of these and more. It's a wonderful book."—Jonathan Safran Foer
"Jews and Words is thrilling and entertaining, challenging clichés and stereotypes at every page. Its tone is half serious and half humorous, mixing a mastery of its subject with an informal touch. It promises to be very controversial and widely read."—Mario Vargas Llosa
"Absolument passionnant."—Bernard-Henri Lévy
Sign up to the Yale newsletter for book news, offers, free extracts and more
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.