Saturday, January 29, 2005

Panther in the Basement, by Amos Oz

The blurb on the back describes Israeli author Amos Oz as the nation's conscience. This short novel (120 pages) tells the story of 12 year old Proffy (short for Professor) and his imaginary life as an underground fighter. It is set in 1947, a year before the state of Israel was born and when those lands were under British occupation. During the novel Proffy befriends a British Sergeant interested in learning Hebrew.

I don't know much about Oz's reputation as a writer, but I presume he's pretty big. You always see his books in the shops in nice hardbacks with rave reviews on the back. This novel really didn't grab me. The style at times is irritating and self-conscious. It's one of those books that is more about the writing style than about telling a story, or entertaining you. There are densely packed pages rhapsodising over Proffy's father's library. As I was reading I was thankful that it was only some 120 pages.

At one point, when the family's house is searched by British soldiers, and Proffy says he is going to betray some secret (more specifically, a mysterious package his father has brought home and instructed his son to be mindful of), you think that some sort of drama is about to mount. But it all fizzles out.

You'd have to pay me to read another one of his novels!

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