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Strange things are happening in Tel Ilan a century old pioneer village A disgruntled retired politician complains to his daughter that he hears the sound of digging at night Could it be their tenant that young Arab? But then the young Arab hears the digging sounds too Where has the mayor's wife gone vanished without trace her note saying Don't worry about me? Around the village the veneer of new wealth gourmet restaurants art galleries a winery barely conceals the scars of war and of past generations disused air raid shelters rusting farm tools and trucks left wherever they stopped Scenes from Village Life is a memorable novel in stories by the inimitable Amos Oz a brilliant unsettling glimpse of what goes on beneath the surface of everyday lifeTranslated from the Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange

10 thoughts on “תמונות מחיי הכפר

  1. says:

    This is a collection of stories of people in a small village called Tel Ilan Israel Stories which stand on their own; with little interconnectednessAs I was reading the book I got cozier and cozier with this small village life There was a climax I would say with fifty plus year olds gathering at a place for singing But then the last “chapter” blew it all because it’s no in Tel Ilan but in another time and in another place But first some of the characters of Tel Ilan She was known in the village for her “glacial intense glaring of her glasses lenses” She never married She’s been anxiously waiting for the arrival of her nephew Gideon at her place Yet he never arrives Gideon an almost autistic child who ran from home at 12 managed somehow to connect with Doctor Gili Steiner It was fun when he had to prepare for 12th grade exams and he spent some days at Gili’s; she never helped him getting prepared; they played checkers instead Gideon had to stop his military service due to a renal infection Arié Zelnik a big strong man living with his sick 90 year old deaf mother Arié left his apartment in the Carmel Mountains He wanted “total uietness”; Naama his wife left for San Diego USA; he’s got a daughter and a son Arié was once a navy commando; now he wants to “erase” all family memories; he wants to build airplanes miniatures Until the day he receives a strange real estate agent And there’s Rachel living with father Pessach an avenge full 88 year old former MP in the Knesset; of a political party which has been dissolved the MAPAI Rachel is a 45 year old widow; her husband died of cardiac arrest Pessach has got a big white moustache; roams the house with his black beret; and most important has a daily routine to insult the International Socialist andto look for chocolates Rachel wonders sometimes what do I do here? Meanwhile she allows a young intellectual Arab called Adel to live in her place in the back yard Adel talks in Arabic with the cats; he would like to write a book about “us” The differences and similarities between Arabs and Jews it’s implied Pessach doesn’t like Adel at all But they manage to talk Adel says about those differences our Arabs unhappiness stems from the soul; or even the heart Is it deeper? Yet they both agree at night they both hear noises; someone is excavating the underground beneath their homes Pessach told Rachel we’re like a shadow passing by Pessach dislikes the man trying to date Rachel he’s a Vet with a pony tail and wearing an earring And other stories Things get cozier when some of the characters get together for singing; but after this episode something very surrealistic ? happens; the above mentioned “chapter” on another time and place It’s a place plagued by mosuitoes and poverty and promiscuity; women upon seeing a healthy man start saying let’s kill him This last chapter aroused in me uestions is it the Tel Ilan of the future? But all those previous chapters had been so realistic so historically stamped I would say by the real Israel's History since its founding fathersWhy this change? Ben Gurion Ben Gurion I thought of 4 stars but due to this style ? and content change I am prone to 3 stars

  2. says:

    Just as the title states Scenes from Village Life is neither a collection of stories nor a novel but eight stories which together make a portrait of the life of the century old village Tel Ilan Oz's characters whether male or female adolescent middle aged or elderly are so very real nothing generic about them His writing is always engaging often surprising in its apt description and turn of phrase Her shoes grated on the gravel path as though they had picked up some tiny creature that was letting out truncated shrieks 26 He would go down to the old farmyard his head thrust forward almost at a right angle which gave him the look of an inverted hoe frantically searching for some pamphlet or letter in the abandoned incubator the fertilizer store the toolshed then forgetting what he had come for picking up a discarded hoe with both hands and starting to dig an unnecessary channel between two beds cursing himself for his own stupidity cursing the Arab student who hadn't cleared the piles of dead leaves dropping the hoe and reentering the house by the kitchen door 46 7I love how nothing is resolved in these stories the characters continue with the absorbingly familiar and unfamiliar puzzle of their lives At least two of the stories are really stunning Waiting and Strangers But all of them are rivetingI had thought I'd recommend this book to my mother for her book group but I'm afraid she'll find it depressing I suspect the lack of resolution together with the sometimes darker place the stories take us and leave us might make her and others find it so But it's beautiful in its mysterious sadness

  3. says:

    It is for others with a surer grasp of the subject to decide the extent to which 'Scenes From Village Life' by Amos Oz is an allegory for the parlous fragile state of modern IsraelCertainly there are broad hints in that direction the characters who people the majority of Oz's eight stories live tentative uncertain lives; Tel Ilan their rural village in uestion itself seems to exist in a state of perpetual uneaseYet conflict of the political kind is only once overtly addressed in 'Singing' in which the story's narrator expresses his ambivalence over the latest bombing raid and the roar of fighter planes overhead is drowned out by a resolute and gutsy community choirOz it seems is determined to illustrate the afflictions of his nation by much delicate means'Scenes From Village Life' is a strange book in every respect oozing general unease sprinkled with imponderables and actions devoid of answers If early in the book it is so nuanced as to not so much miss a beat as lack percussion entirely it soon lures you in like taking a walk in a new neighborhood which appears entirely unremarkable until you begin to scratch at its surfaceMany of Oz's characters are gently propelled by the allure of abandonment most comfortable curled up in abandoned water towers left alone in dark cellars or drawn to dim empty bedrooms with the stale scent of long gone tragedyTheir wider motives are left unexplained the mysterious stranger who turns up on an old man's porch and proceeds not only to cajole him into selling half his house but to climb into bed with him and his ancient mother; the scratching digging sounds from the cellar which torment a teacher and her ageing father; a wife's unexplained departure; a tour of an old house's subterranean passagewaysOz's prose is simple and achingly poetic The sixth story 'Strangers' starts 'It was evening A bird called twice What it meant there was no way of telling'In 'Lost' the narrator a property prospector takes a circuitous twilight walk towards a bleak old house for which he hopes to put in an offer'A smallish package wrapped in brown paper and tied up with black cord was lying on a shady bench at the end of Tarpat Street I paused and bent over to see what was written on it There was nothing written on it I picked it up cautiously and turned it over but the brown paper was smooth and unmarked After a moment's hesitation I decided not to open the package but felt I ought to let someone know I had found it I didn't know whom I should tell I held it in both my hands and it seemed heavier than its size would have suggested heavier than a packet of books as if it contained stones or metal Now the object aroused my suspicion and so I replaced it gently on the bench I ought to have reported the discovery of a suspicious package to the police but my mobile phone was on my desk at the office because I had only gone out for a short walk and didn't want to be interrupted by my office business'The package is never mentioned again And in this mildly ghostly world there are other unexplained apparitions It is a world of sad hearts in which 'the distance from pity to love was like the distance from the moon reflected in a puddle to the moon itself' Yet the community which Oz chronicles in these intriguing overlapping stories appears eerily contentOnly the last story shatters the soporific atmosphere 'In a Faraway Place at Another Time' is a brief orgy of depravity set in a stinking fetid swamp is it what Tel Ilan has been or will become? Like the rest of Oz's fascinating collection it poses plenty uestions than answers

  4. says:

    When I started Oz's latest I thought I would be so content to live in a small village in the north of Israel Yet in these scenes everyone is unhappy unhappy but deeply aware of their connection to others whether family members or acuaintances A son will not leave his old mother nor will a daughter leave her volcanic old father; a veterinarian makes unbidden house calls; a librarian weeps for not having been sympathetic to an adolescent boy; an aunt waits for her beloved nephew In the end as they all join together in communal singing a mysterious narrator seeks to attach himself to his hosts' sorrow The style is oral with freuent repetitions of epithets or facts known by the community and often a ghostly sense that something important cannot be explained The dystopic epilogue of people living mindlessly in a swamp tells us what we already know that to be fully conscious is to bear our sorrows and the sorrows of others Yes I would be content to live in a small Israeli village in the north of Israel

  5. says:

    I need a piece of chocolate every now and then to bring some sweetness into my dark life I need chocolate because my body has stopped producing sweetness of its own'You are a happy person Despair is alien to you'So Amos Oz is my new love I don't know why I picked this book Just because its name was similar to JM Coetzee's Scenes from Provincial life that I have read multiple times by now This was my second Amos Oz's book after Judas and my next book is definitely going to be his Tale of Love and DarknessA very beautiful book showcasing normal lives of normal people of Tel Ilan village of Israel A man living with his 90 years old mother a couple whose son has shot down himself with the bullet under the bed a lonely lady waiting for her nephew an old mayor who is looking for his wife who one day suddenly went somewhere handling him a letter saying 'Don't worry about me' a senile old man who is suspicious of somebody digging the floor beneath where he is staying and a 17 year old man is infatuation with 37 year old ladyWhat makes this book as a winner and a very big refreshing mood changing experience for me is its simplicity So I am definitely purchasing Amos OZ's other books after reading this

  6. says:

    This collection of short stories by Amos Oz is set in an apparently fictional historical village in Israel that has been populated by Jews for roughly a century The characters in the first seven stories all know each other and those who are the center of one story will often appear in a minor role in one or other ones The stories are about the lives of the characters within their families and community and focus on the loneliness and barely hidden frustration and despair that plague each of them Each character is in a search for something often without knowing what it is they are looking for or why and the stories are dreamlike haunting and often mildly uncomfortable and menacing In the longest story Digging a middle aged widow lives with her cantakerous and difficult elderly widowed father along with a shy and introspective Arab university student who lives in a shed on their land in exchange for performing household chores The elderly man is awakened each night by the sound of digging underneath the house yet no one else seems to hear it Other stories feature a single doctor who expectantly waits for her ill nephew; a divorced woman pursued by a lovestruck and lonely teenager; an older man who lives in peace with his infirm mother at the edge of the village until an intrusive stranger who claims to be a relative urges him to sell his mother's property; and the town's mayor who receives a mysterious note from his wife Oz does not provide the reader or his characters with straightforward resolutions to their dilemmas or searches which made the stories that much memorable and powerful The last story is uite unlike the others as it is set in a different place at another time past? present? in a town whose structures are decaying and whose citizens are dying despite the best efforts of the official who is charged with their welfareThe stories are wonderfully written with simple yet evocative language and I slowly savored each passage such as this one from the elderly man in Digging as the Arab student plays a haunting Russian melody on his harmonica on one summer evening 'That's a lovely tune' the old man said 'Heart rending It reminds us of a time when there was still some fleeting affection between people There's no point in playing tunes like that today they are an anachronism because nobody cares any That's all over Now our hearts are blocked All feelings are dead Nobody turns to anyone else except from self interested motives What is left? Maybe only this melancholy tune as a kind of reminder of the destruction of our hearts'Scenes from Village Life is an unforgettable book which is one of my favorite reads of the year and one I look forward to returning to in the near future

  7. says:

    The stranger was not uite a stranger Comparing this to Barabbas may be unfair but I'm at risk for making a lot of unfair statements in this review or at least contentious ones The US news conflates anti Zionism with antisemitism while worshipers are gunned down in their US synagogues and all I know about Israel is that every single European country and its Neo Euro offspring was than happy to fill in the socioeconomicinfrastructural gap in the wake of the trains carrying their infamous cargo away As such while I'm going to discuss horror it's not the exact breed of settler state that the US indulges in nor the Gothic type that 17th 19th c Anglo protestant literature is chock full of part propaganda part genuine ill ease Instead I think about where the displaced European Jewish population was supposed to go what imperial powers they were supposed to turn to who they were supposed to hate and how Amos Oz and so many others past and present have chosen to deal with all this and I don't know anything about two state solutions I do know that even in translation there are beautifully eerily crafted stories whose largely disturbing final resolutions fit in exactly with what I expected even if I don't understand them I'm not the person to tell you what it means but it is a juicy thing to contemplate and the fact that I enjoyed these almost purely for language and atmosphere is a nice change from all the over analyzing I usually have to perform to sueeze the last drop of evaluation out of meNeither short stories nor mysteries typically greatly appeal to me and yet I delight in both when they are presented in the mix that is termed a short story cycle Something about slowly but surely filling in the blanks of various names and mental states fulfills in a way that other styles of writing do not achieve and I should probably make the effort of tracking down examples amongst my current library Anyways Oz's writing has a pleasing lilt to it that conveys itself in English but can hardly be broken down into components for upon attempting such I found myself inadvertently correcting the grammar until I gave up on myself for my refusal to delineate stable boundaries between personal and professional and just let myself enjoy The creepy twists were just an added bonus and slowly but surely I began to think of wartime peacetime and transgenerational PTSD a topic I'd recently seen argued over and saw represented here so assuredly so subtly so plaintively that I believe Israel is blessed to have had such an author writer her stories all the way into the 21st century I suppose in terms of ranking Relations is where the overarching theme started to come together and Digging and Singing confirmed that my sense of the political was not unfounded The concluding In a Faraway Place in Another Time is when my recollections of 'Barabbas' became strongest although I found bits and pieces of Lost and Strangers too hamfisted to take the pieces as a whole seriously The first story Heirs was a shock and Waiting brought the battlefield closest to the frontier farmland turned tourist trap turned Florida style rich people retreat Altogether intriguing and Oz's famous novels intrigue even so I'm hoping A Tale of Love and Darkness comes my way sooner rather than later if nothing else It's pleasurable looking forward to an author I've long heard of but only recently personally experienced and found to be an author worth pursuing There's no point wishing I'd got to it sooner as I can't deny that I need the feel of a rewarding reading these daysThese are uneasy times we live in if one's been paying attention and it's rather revelatory to read about similarly uneasy conditions for vastly different yet comparable reasons roiling on the other side of the world from mine Not comforting in the slightest but definitely familiar and sometimes the acknowledgement that not everything's alright and no one has any idea what 'alright' will eventually look like is the most closure anyone can expect from the literature they consume For potential readers it is vital that you acknowledge Israel's contested history as this collection is not founded on the bliss of peace and even if I'm wildly off the mark in terms of my interpretations Oz is not setting out to tell anyone a bedtime story Even if the reader ignores such in every story the final narrative will leave them no avenue of escape I'd like to draw some comparisons to the Old Testament for the last section but honestly the Torah's been bastardized enough without me putting my grubby fingers into it All in all the stories commit to nothing but damn if they don't make for a fine tuned razor edge of a feeling And the old gravedigger said What's the good of all this chatter? The sun is up the white man who was there or who we imagined was there has disappeared behind the bog Words won't help Another hot day is beginning and it's time to go to work Whoever can work let him work put up or shut up And whoever can't work any let him die And that's all there is to it

  8. says:

    Scenes from Village Life is a collection of short stories set in a fictional village in Israel named Tel Ilan Each story is a stand alone with the characters making a short appearance in other stories My favourite story is Lost A man wants to buy a particular house and demolish it for business profits the granddaughter in the house offers to lead him on a tour of the place As they go deeper into the house the lifeless structure seems to come alive with the memories and stories of the people who lived thereIf you like uiet descriptive prose you will adore this read I loved Amos Oz's eye for details Inspite of the scenic cover of the book and serene setting most stories leave you with a certain uneasinessYou can read the full review at

  9. says:

    Only Oz could create a Gothic atmosphere in a small Israeli town

  10. says:

    This compelling novel drew me in from the outset Given the recent appalling events that are filling our screens from Gaza I simply wanted to read about ordinary life in Israel a place that I have myself lived very happily as a student many years ago I was not disappointedThe book is both harrowing and powerfully empathetic taking the form of a series of touching and acutely observed vignettes centered on uite disparate and lonely characters that are linked together by delightfully tenuous plotlines that are both thought provoking and allegoricalThe tale of old man Pesach Kedem a curmudgeonly misanthrope was particularly poignant a young Arab student Adel who lives in a shed at the bottom of the old man’s garden responds to a uestion posed by the cantankerous ex politician Pesach asks Adel what is he doing and why he lives and works with them? The young Arab says he is writing a book comparing Arabs and Israelis and goes on with his explanation “Our unhappiness is partly our fault and partly your fault But your unhappiness comes from your soul” responds Adel “Our soul?” Pesach asks “Or from your heart it’s hard to know It comes from you From inside The unhappiness It comes from deep inside you”This seems to be the kernel of the theme that runs throughout this moving novel exposing the dashed hopes of the Pioneers and the angst and the paradox of being that is modern day IsraelEnlightening informative sadly apocalyptic and profoundly humane It is a provocative and compelling read