Author of the week
Amos Oz learned early the price to be paid for breaking convention, said Gal Beckerman in The New York Times. In 1947, when the future novelist was just 8 and living in Jerusalem, he befriended an officer in the occupying British army and returned home one day to find the word “traitor” painted in black on the side of his family’s house. Because he’s been a prominent proponent of a two-state solution in Israel since the late 1960s, Oz has also borne the label for most of his adult life. But that history only partially explains why Oz’s first novel in more than a decade is titled Judas, and why the most famous turncoat of all time is central to the story the book tells.
Oz was 16 when he became fascinated with the New Testament, and “infuriated,” as he puts it, with its Judas story. If Judas was a wealthy landowner, Oz wondered, why would he betray Jesus for 30 silver coins? In Oz’s new novel, a young scholar proposes that Judas was actually the fiercest believer in Jesus’ divinity, and that he orchestrated Jesus’ Crucifixion expecting him to miraculously descend from the cross and redeem the world. Oz still despises the Bible version, which he says casts a Jew as the Christ-killer and is therefore “responsible for more bloodshed than any single story in history.” But in the version he and his protagonist tells, is Judas a heel or accidental hero? The novel allows for dispute. “Anyone willing to change,” Oz says, “will always be considered a traitor by those who are scared to death of change.”