Amos Oz and his translator Nicholas de Lange are shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize for Judas.
Words Without Borders (WWB):Tell us about how you became a writer. Was it a vocation, an accident? How has your relationship to writing changed over time? Have your goals and objectives changed throughout the years?
Amos Oz: As a little boy I was short, very thin, and hopelessly shy. I was no good at school, no good at sports, no good at pranks and games. My only way to impress the girls was to invent and tell all kinds of stories. This is how I became a writer, and maybe this is still the main reason why I enjoy telling stories and writing them in books.
WWB: How do you see your writing within the larger context of your country’s/language’s literary tradition? What influences/writers/groups of writers there do you draw on, or what literary currents does your work disavow?
Amos Oz: I never see my writing in a larger context. When I work, my sights are not set on civilization, society, culture, or ideology. I shed a lot of sweat on writing, erasing and rewriting again and again in search of the right noun; the right verb, adverb, adjective; the rhythm of a sentence; and the sharpness of a piece of dialogue. My work is molecular. As a political thinker, as an Israeli Jew, as a peace activist, and as a teacher of literature, I do have ideas about many big issues, but this is already answering a different question.
WWB: What’s your favorite book from a literary tradition other than your own and how has it influenced your writing?
Amos Oz: My all-time favorite literary creation is Don Quixote. I read it time and again, every few years. I love the hero who is also the antihero of the first novel, which is also the first modern novel, and which is also the first postmodern novel, and even the first deconstructionist novel. Don Quixote’s genes can be found in thousands and thousands of literary and cinematic figures created since. Maybe some of his genes are present in every single post-Quixotean human being.