Biography

Amos Oz was born in Jerusalem in 1939. His family included scholars and teachers, some of whom were militant right-wing Zionists, who emigrated to Israel in the early 1930s from Russia and Poland. In 1954, aged 15, Amos Oz rebelled against his father’s world and left Jerusalem to live and work in Kibbutz Hulda, where he also completed his secondary education. After completing his Army service in 1961, he returned to the kibbutz to work in the cotton fields. In his early twenties his first short stories were published in the leading literary quarterly Keshet, before the kibbutz assembly sent him back to Jerusalem to study philosophy and literature at the Hebrew University. With his BA degree, he returned to Kibbutz Hulda where, for twenty five years, he divided his time between writing, farming, and teaching in the Kibbutz High School.

A reserve soldier in a tank unit, Amos Oz fought on the Sinai front during the 1967 Six Day War, and on the Golan Heights in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In 1969-70 Amos Oz was a visiting Fellow at St. Cross College, Oxford. In 1975, and again in 1990, he was ‘Author in Residence’ at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and in 1984-5, together with his wife and son, he spent a year in residence at Colorado Springs College in America. In 1986 they took the difficult decision to leave the Kibbutz and make their home in Arad, where the dry desert climate was beneficial to his son’s asthma.

Amos Oz continues to devote his time to writing and teaching (he is a full Professor at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva) and actively campaigning for the Israeli Peace movement.

Since the 1967 war Amos Oz has published numerous articles and essays about the Israeli/Arab conflict, campaigning for an Israeli/Palestinian compromise to be based on mutual recognition and co-existence between Israel and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. As one of the leading figures in the Israeli Peace movement since 1967, his articles, essays and political activities have made him a foremost figure in Israel. His speeches and articles appear in translation throughout the world.

He was one of the editors of THE SEVENTH DAY (soldiers talking about the Six Day War), and the editor of an anthology entitled STORIES FROM THE KIBBUTZ

In 1991 he was elected a full member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language.

In 1992 he was awarded the German Friedenspreis, one of the most important international peace prizes, which was presented to him by the German President, Richard von Weizsacker.

In 1997 he was awarded the French cross of the Knight of the Légion d’Honneur by President Jacques Chirac.

Amos was awarded his country’s most prestigious prize: the Israel Prize for Literature in 1998, the fiftieth anniversary year of Israel’s independence.

In 2002 he was awarded the prestigious Norwegian Authors’ Union’s Freedom of Expression Prize – an annual prize awarded to an author who has made outstanding efforts to promote freedom of expression and tolerance.

In September 2004, Amos Oz and the Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh were jointly awarded the Premi Internacional Catalunya by the Catalan Government for their “decisive contribution to the development of cultural, scientific and human values around the world.”

He also was awarded the Ovidius Prize granted annually by the Romanian Union of Writers for the quality of literary work and its contribution to the deepening understanding among different ethnic groups and cultures.

And in November 2004 he was awarded the Die Welt Literary Prize given to authors whose books besides possessing high literary quality have had impacts across national boundaries and instigated international debates.

In August 2005, he was awarded the Goethe Prize, one of Germany’s most important awards which was given to Amos for his novels, in particular, A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS and for his contribution to world peace.

In September 2007, he was awarded the Premio Grinzane Cavour Award. The aim of the Prize is “to celebrate writers who have a dialogue through their books, works and energy with people and cultures facing the Mediterranean”.

In September 2007, he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters, recognising his contribution to the world of literature. This is the leading international award in the Spanish speaking world.

In April 2008, he was awarded the Stefan Heym Prize in Germany for the body of his work. This is a new prize which will be awarded every 3 years and he is the first recipient.

In May 2008, he was awarded the Dan David Prize – honouring him “in the field of creative rendering of the past for portraying historical events while emphasizing the individual, and for exploring the tragic conflict between two nations from a very human point of view.”

Political Activity

In the early 1960s, Amos Oz was active in the social-democrat group Min Hayesod, which opposed the personality cult surrounding Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion as well as his state centralism. Since the 1967 Six Day War, he has been active in various groups and organizations of the Israeli peace movement, which advocates a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was involved in the Committee for Peace and Security (1967) and in the Moked and Sheli movements, and has been among the chief spokesman of the Peace Now movement since its founding in 1977. Since 2003 Amos Oz is one of the leaders of “The Geneva Initiative” – an Israeli-Palestinian Peace Movement. In 2008 he was one of the funders of “The New Movement – Meretz”

Works

1965-2011 Published 35 books, among them 13 novels, four collections of stories and novellas, Children’s books, and nine books of articles and essays (as well as six selections of essays that appeared in various languages)

1969-2011 Books and stories translated into 42 languages in 43 countries

1960-2011 Published some 480 articles and essays on literary, political, and social topics in Israel and abroad.

In addition, from 1965 to date, numerous books, studies, Ph.D. dissertations, Academic Conferences etc. have been devoted to Amos Oz’s works.