In New Book, Israeli Writer Amos Oz Looks for a Jewish Essence

Collection of writings by Oz and his daughter, historian Fania Oz-Salzberger, is a love letter to the Hebrew language, in English.

A new book that is partly a love letter to the Hebrew language, written by Amos Oz and his daughter, historian Fania Oz-Salzberger, will be published in November - but only in English.

As a writer of international renown, Oz is used to having his books translated into other languages. But this time, the father-daughter team is hoping to find someone to translate their book, called "Jews and Words," into Hebrew.

Tess Scheflan

"The book was written in English because of the circumstances that arose, but it contains so many words of love for Hebrew, that one can hope a translator is found" to render the book into Hebrew, said Oz-Salzberger.

The book, to be published by Yale University Press and the Posen Foundation as a companion to a 10-volume anthology of Jewish culture, is about more than the Hebrew language, though. It focuses on the question of what has made the Jews the Jews for millennia, from the perspective of two "totally secular" thinkers, as Oz-Salzberger put it.

"We don't have one answer, but several answers," she said. "The title of the book hints at one of them, and the relationship between its authors is also a clue to a possible answer."

The discussion is framed within such topics as continuity, women, timelessness and individualism, and the authors page through Jewish history to explain the close relationship between Jews and words.

"The text isn't scholarly or academic, but is a dialogue between a writer and literary researcher on the one hand, and a historian of ideas on the other, who are also father and daughter, and sometimes they agree and sometimes they argue," said Oz-Salzberger.

The book will come out at the same time as the final volume in the anthology, called the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization. Volume 10, the first volume being published, is a collection of works from 1973 through 2005, and features contemporary figures such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the writers Saul Bellow and Judy Blume, law professor Alan Dershowitz and the architect Frank Gehry.

Volume 1 will be published last. It will begin in the second millennium B.C.E.

"This monumental project includes the best of Jewish culture in its historical and global entirety," the editor-in-chief of the project, James E. Young, said in a press release. "It will provide future generations with a working legacy by which to recover and comprehend Jewish culture and civilization."

More than 120 scholars from Israel and abroad are expected to work on the project.

Read this article in Hebrew.