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Yale Press Podcast Episode 29: Amos Oz & Fania Oz-Salzberger

Listen to the podcast interview for Jews and Words on iTunes!

Yale Press PodcastJews and WordsSomewhere between the What is Jewish Culture? event at the 92Y launching the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization and the NPR Weekend Edition interview with Scott Simon, we managed to catch Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger to record our latest episode of the Yale Press Podcast. Father and daughter speak with Yale University Press Director John Donatich about the essential role of books and words throughout Jewish history; and language as it has been passed down through families and translation.

The Yale Press Podcast is now available through Yale University on iTunesU. You can read an excerpt from Jews and Words below.


Amos Oz & Fania Oz-Salzberger—

This book is an essay. It is a nonfiction, speculative, raw, and occasionally playful attempt to say something a bit new on a topic of immense pedigree. We offer you our personal take on one core aspect of Jewish history: The relationship of Jews with words.

The authors are a father and a daughter. One is a writer and literary scholar, the other a historian. We have discussed and disputed topics relevant to this book ever since one of us was about three years old. Nevertheless, our coauthorship warrants some justification.

The best way to account for our teamwork is to spell up front what this essay says. It says that Jewish history and peoplehood form a unique continuum, which is neither ethnic nor political. To be sure, our history includes ethnic and political lineages, but they are not its prime arteries. Instead, the national and cultural geneaology of the Jews has always depended on the intergenerational transmittal of verbal content. It is about faith, of course, but even more effectively it is about texts. Significantly, the texts have long been available in writing. Tellingly, controversy was built into them from the very start. At its best, Jewish reverence has an irreverent edge. At its best, Jewish self-importance is tinged by self-examination, sometimes scathing, sometimes hilarious. While scholarship matters enormously, family matters even more. These two mainstays tend to overlap. Fathers, mothers, teachers. Sons, daughters, students. Text, question, dispute. We don’t know about God, but Jewish continuity was always paved with words.

For this very reason, our history excels as a story. Indeed, several histories and numerous stories are intertwined in the annals of the Jews. Many scholars and writers have braved this maze. Here we are offering a joint walk through some of its pathways, entwining the gazes of a novelist and a historian, and adding our own interlocution to its myriad conversing voices.


Excerpted from Jews and Words, Yale University Press 2012. Copyright © 2012 by Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger. All rights reserved.

Amos Oz is the internationally renowned author of more than twenty works of fiction and numerous essays on politics, literature, and peace. He is also professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva. Fania Oz-Salzberger is a writer and history professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Haifa. She recently held the Leon Liberman Chair in Modern Israel Studies at Monash University, and a Visiting Laurance S. Rockefeller Professorship for Distinguished Teaching at Princeton University.

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