Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cool books 3

Here are some more cool books read here chez Kavanna in the last year.

Israel has many fine writers and novelists, probably none more famous than Amos Oz. A few years ago he published his most remarkable book, a memoir in novelistic form called A Tale of Love and Darkness. It's available in English from Harcourt in a graceful translation by Nicholas de Lange. Oz's life from his earliest Jerusalem childhood in the 1930s through the Second World War and Israel's War of Independence and into the 1950s is recalled in an almost Chekhovian manner, each short chapter something like a fine etching or ink drawing. The American reviews were very positive, but tended to emphasize the centrality of his mother's suicide overly much, to the detriment of other parts of the story.

The cure for the existential head cold is Yi-Fu Tuan's Escapism, which starts as a meditation on the relation between culture and animality and ends by exploring heaven and hell. Read it to see what I mean. I was reminded of a beautiful classic, Walter Kaufmann's Critique of Religion and Philosophy, which covers some of the same ground albeit from a very different direction. Tuan is a geographer and historian at the University of Wisconsin. Born in China in 1930, he came to Great Britain and then the United States after the 1949 Revolution.

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