Chatto & Windus £12.99. Order for £11.69 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest, By Amos Oz
Thursday 04 March 2010
This is a tiny book that doubles both as a children's fable and an allegory for adults. It may be a fast read, but it has enormous resonances. The narrative is based in a mysterious town without animals or birds. Legend tells that they have been spirited away by the Pied Piper figure of Nehi, the mountain demon. The animals live in a paradise where no beast devours another and harmony reigns.
The protagonists are Maya and Matti. Amos Oz's narrative drive is their forest journey in search of the lost beasts. They rebel against adult secrets and voyage into the dangerous world of knowledge and experience.
What are we to make of Oz's world without animals? There are multiple interpretations. Although the children try to escape a society built on lying, when they arrive at the animal oasis, they find no single truth: only a seemingly safe environment, with hints of malevolence.
Is this an allegory about the Holocaust, where the terrible past of vanished beings weighs like a dark secret? Is it a story of the return from exile to a "Promised Land", which offers only trouble? Oz suggests no distinct clues, offering only a sense of immense loss.
Maya counts a row of trees. At night she sees nine and the next day only eight. In the Jewish calendar, the ninth day of Av, which starts on the eighth day of the Hebrew month, is noted as the "saddest day of the year".
In Sondra Silverston's spare and sharp translation, a sense of great anxiety fills the tale and the occasional moments of humour are bittersweet. Oz's outcasts includes Ginone the blacksmith, who returns from the forest as a shrunken child. Nimi, a visionary, is an attractive-repulsive boy with a permanently running nose. Emanuella, the teacher, chases all men and is mocked for getting nobody. There's no neat resolution; rather, this is a nightmare world closer to the brutality of Charles Perrault than the happy endings of Hans Christian Andersen.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
- 2 This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
- 3 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Spectre: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming James Bond movie
Indian Summers recommissioned: Channel 4 confirm a second series of British Empire drama
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
The Casual Vacancy finale review: Superb cast, luscious cinematography - shame about the confused ending
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut