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Johanna Ekström: What was it now again Amos Oz told me about the writing?

At the end of november 2017 I visited, and my brother Amos Oz in his home in Tel Aviv. We had questions about our jewish affiliation, language and identity, the israeli, the religious. We had so many questions that we in the elevator up to his floor suddenly didn't like us to have a single. Amos Oz showed us into his study and placed us in a chair. He himself sat down in the couch opposite. His wife Nilly came and went. The jewish identity was in the question.

”The jewish is not a religion, not a race. You can call it a culture, but I prefer to speak of a civilization,” said Amos Oz. ”But it is important to be a good jew.”

”And there you are,” said his wife.

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many who would disagree with you about the matter,” he replied and smiled both sadly and humorously smile.

Nilly put his arm around him and said: ”For me you are always a good jew.”

Then he shifted to give me some essential skrivråd, because I told you that I was writing a book about my mother. He said he knew how hard it was.

I gave my brother a look that meant that he would help me to memorize. In the taxi on the way back to Jaffa, we agreed that it had been a magical encounter. We were rocked without quite knowing why, perhaps by Amos Oz, peace and clarity, dry humor, well-balanced imagery. It was as if he had everything to be understandable, three-dimensional. And even if we knew some of the concepts from ” How to cure a fanatic”, it was nevertheless as if what he said was new and alive.

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a book which he wrote together with his daughter Fania Oz-Salzberger, ”Jews and words”. For the jewish people is connected with language, storytelling and scripture. But also with a polemic, questioning, exchange. Language live. The words are moving and changing. But what was it he said about the writing? What was the specific advice he has given me? I thought that my brother had memorized them. But he was as puzzled as I was.

I and Amos Oz held a sparse, text-contact, and mejlväxling. For almost a month then I got a message: ”My health is perhaps not the best these days. I read with an open heart, but cannot answer detailed or specific. Maybe I will be able to write to you again when I feel better.”

Johanna Ekström is an author and artist. Her latest book is ”Diary 1996-2002” from 2016.

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