Jews and Words
Publication Date: November 2012
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Why are words so important to so many Jews? Novelist Amos Oz and historian Fania Oz-Salzberger roam the gamut of Jewish history to explain the integral relationship of Jews and words. Through a blend of storytelling and scholarship, conversation and argument, father and daughter tell the tales behind Judaism's most enduring names, adages, disputes, texts, and quips. These words, they argue, compose the chain connecting Abraham with the Jews of every subsequent generation.
Framing the discussion within such topics as continuity, women, timelessness, and individualism, Oz and Oz-Salzberger deftly engage Jewish personalities across the ages, from the unnamed, possibly female author of the Song of Songs through obscure Talmudists to contemporary writers. They suggest that Jewish continuity, even Jewish uniqueness, depends not on central places, monuments, heroic personalities, or rituals but rather on written words and an ongoing debate between the generations. Full of learning, lyricism, and humor, "Jews and Words" offers an extraordinary tour of the words at the heart of Jewish culture and extends a hand to the reader, any reader, to join the conversation.
Fania Oz-Salzberger is Professor of History at the University of Haifa and director of the Posen Forum for Political Thought at the Faculty of Law. She has authored books and articles on the history of political thought.
"Ours is not a bloodline, but a text line," say father-daughter author team Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger. Their new book, Jews And Words, explores the significance of text in the Jewish tradition. "For thousands of years, we Jews had nothing but books," Oz says. "They became part of the family life." More at NPR.org
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"Ingenious and thrilling, Jews and Words manages to cram more than 5,000 years of prayers, songs, stories, arguments, praises, curses and jokes into the suitcase of a thin, page-turning work of . . . what? History? Anthropology? Literary criticism? Theology? All of these and more. It's a wonderful book."—Jonathan Safran Foer
-Jonathan Safran Foer
“Thrilling and entertaining, Jews and Words challenges clichés and stereotypes at every page. Its tone is half serious and half humorous, mixing a mastery of its subject with an informal touch. It promises to be very controversial and widely read.”—Mario Vargas Llosa
-Mario Vargas Llosa
“Absolument passionnant.”—Bernard-Henri Lévy
“Jews and Words is a wonderful, a great essay. It will resonate not only in the ears of Jews, but also in the mind of any secular intellectual who retains a certain sensitivity for the wealth of words in our book-religions. The line ‘Ours is not a bloodline but a textline’ is a drum beat for those who hear the special connotations, and for everyone who embraces the eighteenth-century Enlightenment without forgetting those religious motifs that deserve translation without annihilation.”—Jürgen Habermas
"A provocative mixture of scholarship, sly observation and wry writing that often glistens."—Kirkus Reviews
“Jews and Words is a conversation between two people who love each other, informed by a wonderful sense of humor and a passionate yet measured analysis of language, people, and literature. Honesty shines through every paragraph of this terrific work.”—Yehuda Bauer
"Playfully instructive...Will appeal to lay readers interested in a nonreligious Judaism based on contemporary readings of traditional and more modern Jewish texts."—Publishers Weekly
Praise for Amos Oz’s A Tale of Love and Darkness
“Both in his fiction and his essays, Oz has proven himself one of our essential writers, laying out for our observation, in ever-increasing breadth and profundity, the mad landscape of our time and his place--always enlarging the scope of his questions while avoiding the temptation of dogmatic answers.”—Alberto Manguel, Washington Post Book World
Praise for Fania Oz-Salzberger’s Israelis in Berlin
“An exciting, deeply moving, masterly book. It combines a wealth of knowledge with great emotional power."—Zeruya Shalev
“Jews and Words is a wonderful, a great essay…. The line ‘Ours is not a bloodline but a textline’ is a drum beat.”—Jürgen Habermas