Between Friends, Israeli writer Amos Oz's new book of short stories set in the late 1950s-early 1960s on fictional kibbutz Yekhat, is being published today by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The book arrives two years after his previous book of short stories, Scenes from Village Life, which is set in contemporary and more affluent Israel.
In my New York Journal of Books review ( http://nyjournalofbooks.com/review/between-friends ) I write: "Loneliness is an important theme in both of Mr. Oz’s recent books of linked short stories. But where in Scenes from Village Life there is a pervasive sense of unease and the characters experience despair and/or resignation, Between Friends is set in a more innocent, idealistic, and hopeful time (though one in which the trauma of the Shoah was more recent), and its psychological tension results from the conflict between Yekhat’s lack of privacy, collectivist mores, rules, and bureaucratic committees on the one hand, and the individual aspirations and inner lives of its members on the other."
The two books reflect two psychological responses to Israel's economic conversion from a formerly mixed but mostly socialist economy to one that is now completely capitalist. The unease and even despair in Scenes from Village Life reflects an acknowledgement that capitalism, for good and for bad, with its increased wealth as well as income inequality, is here to stay.
The second response is a nostalgia for the lost socialist past, Between Friends' "more innocent, idealistic, and hopeful time." And the quintessential Israeli socialist setting is the kibbutz, which in Mr. Oz 's portrayal has shortcomings as well as strengths.
In the new book Mr. Oz parts ways with his longtime British translator Nicholas de Lange who is replaced by Israeli-American translator Sondra Silverston. In my New York Journal of Books review I describe her translation as "splendid." Her English seems more natural to American readers and feels closer to the cadences of Mr. Oz's Hebrew.