Friday, July 31, 2009

The same sea - Amos Oz

Amos Oz, Israeli novelist, brings out a beautiful book of love, abandonment, old age, seduction in a very peculiar and interesting way. Albert Danon, nearing sixty, recently widowed ( his wife Nadia died of cancer) lives in Bat Yam , a sea side town of Israel. His son, Rico has left home on a tour of Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal , India, Bangladesh and later in Srilanka in search of peace leaving behind his girl friend Dita Inbar. Dita, an aspiring writer of screen play , was cheated on money by the wannabe director ( Dubi Dimitrov) of the film with her screenplay , and was left homeless. She manages to convince Albert to allow her to stay with him, until she find an alternate accommodation. While she manages to get a temporary job of a receptionist in a hotel, Albert manages to get her money back ( at least the assurance) and finds a place for her. Rico, now in travel ask Dita to find other friends, while he himself is having an affair with a Portuguese woman called Maria. Dito with her seductive postures and suggestive dresses, makes Albert uncomfortable. Bettine Carmel, a widow who lives alone and spends her weekends with her grand children, also an accountant, is an old friend of Alberts , visits him often and is genuinely concerned about him.

Every one here lives a life in isolation. The more they are trying to bring themselves to the others, the farther they are. The old memory of his early life come backs to Albert as he spend sleepless nights waiting for Dita's return. On Bettine's advise, he goes and meet a sorcerer who claims to help people to talk to the dead. But Nadia does not come back and talk to him, instead she appears in Rico's dreams and soon be his companion, sharing his grief.

There are different ways of writing fiction. I've read Manuel Puig's novels written as conversation between two people. There is one novel written in one paragraph. There are some where the entire novel is re-collection of incidents by various people. This one was a novel written in verse, unlike the epics , this one is with varying style and lengths in each page. Some pages ends peculiarly, incomplete , leaving the rest to the readers. The author himself appears in the story as a narrator, with whom, other confide in private.
The book is very poetic , as the style demand. That also makes a huge demand on the translation. Unlike prose, translation of verse is difficult. Amos Oz has done a great job in trying out the new style of writing, retaining the fictional qualities. At the end, one is left with sympathetic feeling towards each of the characters.

"I wrote this book with everything I have. Language, music, structure--everything that I have. . . . This is the closest book I've written. Close to me, close to what I always wanted. . . . I went as far as I could." Says Amos Oz in one of his interview. He also clarifies elsewhere that "I wrote The Same Sea not as a political allegory about Israelis and Palestinians. I wrote it about something much more gutsy and immediate. I wrote it as a piece of chamber music".

Very lyrical, melancholic novel, beautifully executed.
The Same Sea
Amos Oz ( Translated from Hebrew by Nicolas De Lange)
201 Pages
Read more: Complete Review , Yale Review of Books, Guardian , Spectator


Anonymous said...

Hey Jayan,

Excellent review. I want to read another Oz novel, having only read To Know a Woman (which I liked). I have this and two earlier novels, a Perfect Peace and My Michael. I feel one should always read more than one book by an author before forming an opinion of him/her.


Brain Drain said...

Thanks Randy,

I a looking forward to your detailed review.