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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 102 Reviews .1::1"::1 c.,,:nt ~ .n» 0'0» n"~:l n'~'~o, l'rv" :J,m,l,rv"n ,,~ TOWARDS LANGUAGE AND BEYOND: LANGUAGE AND REALITY IN THE PROSE OF AMOS OZ. By Avraham Balaban. pp. 213. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1988. Paper. Amos Oz's writing is characterized by a momentum of high productivity . At times it appears as if one is observing a race between author and critic as the latter attempts to gain control of the former's evolving thematic and stylistic developments by encompassing his literary oeuvre in a book-length study. Thus it is with the latest study by Avraham Balaban who has in the past brought us studies of the works of Amalia Kahana-Carmon and Natan Alterman. In this (Balaban's second) work about Oz, the latter's latest novel, To Know a Woman, is regrettably missing, and only because of its nearly simultaneous publication date with this study. In the first of his studies Balaban focused on the Jungian facets embedded in Oz's stories and novels (initially noted by Hillel Barzel). This latest study addresses the uses of language as theme and function in the author's continued endeavors to hold a mirror up to nature. Thus, Oz's latest novel would have served Balaban well in that its narrative's departure into the realms of hyperrealism-the presentation, in Barzel"s words, of an exaggerated amount of detail to clarify, mock, or praise-would seem to present Balaban with additional opportunities to explore the roles and uses of language in fiction. In any event, Balaban's two accomplished studies place him in a select league of the more prominent students of Oz's fiction. This latest study instructs and sheds new light with nearly every page. And while the reader may not be in total accord with the author on particular points of interpretation of one detail or another, his lucid and systematic presentation makes for an exemplary piece of research that will set the tone for the interpretation of Oz in the years to come. The groundwork for this latest work was laid down by Balaban in his first study of Oz. In that, as here, he demonstrated the applicability of Jungian theories of personality and consciousness as a key for understanding much of the author's fiction. Oz's characters and plots, argues Balaban, point to the persistent tension between the realms of culture and naturethe former representing rationality, civilized behavior, and an optimistic faith in the betterment of humankind as against the sphere of dark impulses and the anima of the latter-residing in the individual and society. While it may be difficult to avoid the attraction of one over the other-for they Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 103 Reviews precipitate naivete or chaos-it is against the metonymic couriers of the primordial. elemental world that most of his heroes struggle. The acceptance of this "dark side" of the self. the author appears to be saying. is a must for anyone aspiring to attain a properly balanced and sober recognition of the limits of humanity's abilities in fashioning a sober understanding of the world. Balaban's point of departure in this second study is Jungian. In so doing he also seeks the markings in Oz's stories of ancient Near Eastern and Classical myths while bringing to light features emblematic of the Apollonian-Dionysian dialectical relationship. as expounded by Nietzsche and others. While this approach is not new to Hebrew literary criticism. its systematic application by Balaban demonstrates the extent to which Oz is an heir to the Dionysian-Berdyczewskian tradition in Hebrew literature. That Balaban's choice here is to devote his study to the role of language as the most characteristic feature of the tensions between culture and nature should not be surprising at a time when literary scholarship is preoccupied with the nature of the medium and its functions in conveying significance. Fiction. he explains, in attempting to depict reality. must of necessity resort to language. the primary manifestation of culture and civilization. As fixed signs. deriving meaning from their relationships to each other. words are merely...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-1681
Print ISSN
0146-4094
Pages
pp. 102-106
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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