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Jerusalem 1947 British soldiers patrol the streets and bullets and bombs are a nightly occurrence Caught up in the fervour and unrest against the occupying forces 12 year old Proffy dreams of being an underground fighter But some of his dreams are less heroic Temptation lurks everywhere for the youth who wants to be a man and betrayal not far behind


10 thoughts on “פנתר במרתף

  1. says:

    Does justice lurk in your basement? The British are still occupying Palestine The declaration of the state of Israel is a few months away Twelve year old Proffy roams about Jerusalem fantasizing madly He’ll be a hero of the Underground he’ll blow up the Parliament in London he and the FOD “Freedom or Death” membership 3 kids will drive out the occupiers singlehandedly It was the time when the survivors of Hitler’s genocide poured into Palestine and determined that such events would not ever happen againat least not to us Well they do happen again—Cambodia Rwanda Myanmar Darfur Xinjiang Indonesian ‘communists’—but not so far to the Jews In a tale of boyhood miraculously recreated the funny and sad mix inextricably It’s a tale of Jewish wisdom Talmudic uestions disguised within a story of a kid barely emerged from childhood Temptation truth bravery loyalty—what are these? It’s also a tale of the naiveté of childhood Proffy’s arrested for violating the curfew by a British soldier who knows Biblical Hebrew and winds up befriending him giving him English lessons in exchange for some in modern Hebrew They meet in the back room of a café at times Was this man gay? We don’t learn exactly The kid had no idea about it in any case Proffy agonizes about being a traitor because he’s consorting with the enemy but tries to get information about British movements from him to counteract his self condemnation He never gives the soldier his name His two comrades put him “on trial” accusing him of loving the enemy Proffy defends himself but recognizes ambivalence He also peeped at a neighbor girl sister of his FOD comrade changing clothes and agonizes over his behavior The uestion is about what constitutes betrayal of trust What is justice? The Jews had had enough of Europe enough persecution But what were they doing? Would not their new state wind up making the Palestinians into the new Jews? Would that be justice? The British are their enemies because they block the establishment of Israel but are they all so bad? They seem polite and not at all aggressive Is killing them the answer to anything?There is a panther in everybody’s basement Will you let it out? America’s panther is about to emerge It might be a positive uality but it might be aggression and destruction Who knows about panthers? Back in Ukraine Proffy’s mother once put an old blue shutter into a stream that she believed was circular She was sure that in time it would come round again But it disappeared Maybe it did appear when she wasn’t there Maybe it’s still out there in a stream extending to the end of the Universe Can our deeds create results long after they are done? The deeds done to all the Jews of his parents’ former town the murder of their entire families multiplied and wound up creating a new country and a great loss for the local inhabitants I ask again what is the nature of justice? Will tearing down statues restore dignity and eliminate injustice? Will NOT tearing them down allow justice to rule? Is justice for one justice for all? How to solve these uestions Reading this marvelous book written in such deceptively simple style you may ask how many blue shutters you have tossed into the river We may ponder the uestions but the answers you’ll have to find for yourself


  2. says:

    This short novel tells a story from a perspective of a young boy growing up in a complex world Obviously there are many autobiographical elements in it As seems to be a rule with Oz’s writings Panther In The Basement is beautifully written The writing style is a tad bit simpler than some of the other Amos’ works possibly because it is written from a perspective of a child It may also be that it was written with a view of a younger audience but it is nevertheless a suitable read for adults as well There is something so effortless in a way Amos Oz writes it is as if writing was second nature to him as if it was as natural as breathing is to me Maybe it is This novel certainly seems to flow naturallyThe protagonist is Proffy a very young Israeli boy growing up in a country that is just starting to exist Obviously this makes him ask a lot of uestions Not always finding satisfactory answers from his parents he develops his own answers and searches for solutions mostly in imagination He is of that age when he is becoming perceptive of the world surrounding him but naturally most of the battles he fights are within his mind Proffy sees the British presence in Israel as a hostile one but he still befriends a clumsy British soldier The development of their friendship is described in a very convincing way Moreover this friendship turns to be a very touching one These two and their friendship is certainly the thing I remember best from this novelAll the characters in the novel are perceived through the eyes of the child but that doesn’t make them less interesting One character that especially caught my attention was Jardena She gave some good advice to the boy So she is certainly one female character that I liked Proofy’s mother on the other hand despite speaking words of wisdom remained somewhat elusive Yet all in all I would say that the portray of characters is fairly successful especially for such a short novel The protagonist of the novel stands out in this novel and his characterization is certainly well done We may assume that he is based on the author himself However if you want depth and autobiographical details I recommend that you read A Tale of Light and Darkness a true masterpieceYou will find some recurring motifs typical for Amoz’s prose in this novel Take for example his love of books That is something that manages to find its way into this novel as well Imagination running wild that is another thing you might recognize from his other works Not just in his writing but in the characters he creates A single child a young boy with an impressive imaginative scope often appears in his writings There is also that uestion of loyalty and love How do we manifest love? How do we prove it? This novel does ask those uestions a well I know it sounds sentimental but I could really feel a message of hope radiating from this bookIf I remember well it only took me about an hour and a half to read this book The writing appealed to me I like how it managed to talk about a specific period in time while at the same time discussing themes that are essentially universal and timeless This is an interesting view into pre independent Israel that is not devoid of humour So what does panther in the basement means? That is how Proffy sees himself at one point of the novel but to understand why you would have to read the noveland why wouldn’t want to read it? I can’t think of a single reason


  3. says:

    Although seemingly a light read Panther in the basement deals with serious topics such as betrayal the British mandate and the creation of the state of Israel seen through the eyes of a 12 year old whose mature yet innocent perspective on life is endearingThe book is structured as a recollection of childhood events around an important moment in the history of Israel resembling thus A tale of love and darkness which is by far my favorite of Amos Oz's books


  4. says:

    Charming and well written Panther In the Basement deals with very adult subject matters through the eyes of an intelligent and imaginative 12 year old named Proffy The many faces of conflict in the formative years of the Hebrew State are all here as characters and the story has a large overarching themes of honor honesty and nationalism


  5. says:

    I thought this was a delightful and marvelously entertaining book I read it on the recommendation of a friend of mine who read it in English I read the original Hebrew version It may have been intended for young adults Oz has a number of such books most of which concentrate on his growing up in Jerusalem; most written in a lighter less erudite style than the one he usually chooses This tells the story of the bookish Proffy nickname for Professor a six grader who imagines that he's like Tyrone Power in a movie whose title was translated into Hebrew to The Panther in the Basement a leader of the Jewish underground with fantastic plans to bomb London and convince the ueen to pull out the British forces from Palestine He also befriends an English soldier who wishes to improve his Hebrew while he improves Proffy's English I'm not sure whether the different stories about life under the British mandate in a poor neighborhood in Jerusalem and the fantastic imaginings of an extremely bright and erudite boy actually come together in the end but the journey is delightful I chuckled throughout This is one of the most pleasurable novels I've read in a long time Warmly recommended I hope the English is as good as ironic as faithful to the voice of a young boy on the verge of becoming an adolescent as the original


  6. says:

    This is an interesting story about a young boy living in Jerusalem who befriends a soldier part of the British occupying force before Israel became a recognized country I put befriends in uotation marks because Proffi the boy really wants to ferret out information from the soldier which might be useful to his little resistance group which has nothing to do with the real Underground But the other members of his group find him out and brand him a traitorThe story has no ending at least not a definitive one And the views of the child narrator are limiting; for example we never learn what the child's true name is he's only called Proffi which is a nickname he's earned because of his bookish nature he's like a professor Still it's an interesting read and some of the themes contained within the novel what traitor means the use of animals as metaphors etc are thought provoking


  7. says:

    This is a delightful amusingshort coming of age story After reading A Tale of Love and Darkness you clearly recognize that this too is about the author himself Of the two I guess I prefer the memoir but you get a uick glimpse of the author and his writing style in this shorter book Such imagination Such love of books I also like how the author circles around and around a subject going deeper and deeper into the core the writing is never linear His physical description of temptation is priceless Read this but read the other first it covers territory


  8. says:

    While the story was a sweet coming of age story with well drawn characters wasn't Ben Hur also reflective of Israel as a dominating occupying force in the years since '67 and the protagonist reflective of the Israeli intelligentsia who might have their doubts but also would do anything for the approval and acceptance of the Ben Hurs? Loved the character of Yardena Ben Hur's older beautiful lusty sister who tells the protagonist that Ben Hur will have many women but not on really intimate termsAlso love Oz's gentle sense of humor his way with words and comparisons and his sensibilities


  9. says:

    It is a boyhood story tinted by a thin air of melancholy and nostalgia Incredibly funny Troubled times and gentle souls Every now and then a sense of agitation is felt through the steady flow of unrest yet once and again a sense of relief and absolution arises from simply looking into this young boy's clear eyes


  10. says:

    I liked that it was about an interesting setting post WW2 British occupied Palestine There were some suspenseful moments but lots of boring stuff too Overall not that great really