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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction


How to Cure a Fanatic

Amos Oz

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To purchase How to Cure a Fanatic

Title: How to Cure a Fanatic
Author: Amos Oz
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: (2006)
Length: 95 pages
Availability: How to Cure a Fanatic - US
How to Cure a Fanatic - UK
How to Cure a Fanatic - Canada
How to Cure a Fanatic - India
Comment guérir un fanatique - France
Wie man Fanatiker kuriert - Deutschland
Contro il fanatismo - Italia
Contra el fanatismo - España
  • The two lectures in this volume were originally presented as the Tübinger Poetik-Dozentur in 2002
  • Previously published, without the interview, as Help us to Divorce in the UK in 2004
  • With a Foreword by Nadine Gordimer
  • With an Interview by Brigitta van Rheinberg (conducted September, 2005)

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Our Assessment:

A- : concise, well-expressed

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Jewish Quarterly* . Winter/2004 Samir El-youssef
Philadelphia Inquirer . 9/4/2006 Carlin Romano
Die Welt* . 13/11/2004 Michael Stürmer

(Reviews marked with an asterisk (*) are of a different version of the book)

  From the Reviews:
  • "True to his liberal humanistic roots, Oz believes everyone in the Arab-Israeli mess simply needs, in the end, to be reasonable. (...) Readers who share Oz's belief that the Israeli-Arab conflict is "between two victims" will welcome his constant equalization of the moral positions (...) Those who think justice and morality align more with one people than the other, with the attacked rather than attackers, may find Oz's position a species of fanatical nonjudgmentalness." - Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       How to Cure a Fanatic is more booklet than book, but Oz get his message across -- and does so quite nicely. The book consists of edited versions of two lectures Oz originally gave in Germany in 2002, and is padded (and brought somewhat up to date) by an interview conducted in September 2005.
       The first piece is Between Right and Right, and in it Oz argues that it is futile trying to frame the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one between good and bad guys. Both sides, he believes, have valid claims to the disputed land, and both sides have been victims -- and both have acted unwisely. There can be no satisfactory winner-take-all scenario. The solution, as he sees it, is to treat it like a divorce -- acknowledging that it will be a difficult one, "because the two divorcing parents are definitely staying in the same apartment" and have to work out who gets what rooms, etc.
       The second piece, How to Cure a Fanatic, is a more far-ranging one, tackling the problem of modern fanaticism. In fact, he doesn't offer much of a cure (and even begins by admitting that maybe containing it is the best one can do), but he does suggest some ways to counter it. Oz places his hopes in imagination and literature, and especially in humour.
       Oz writes that: "The essence of fanaticism lies in the desire to force other people to change." He understands that fanatics, in a sense, mean well: when Bin Laden attacked the US in September 2001: "He did it for your own good, he wants to change you, he wants to redeem you." Indeed, Oz warns of the seeds of fanaticism in all of us, the small and larger things where we're certain we know better and best. But that's where imagination and humour serve one of their vital purposes:

Even when you are 100 percent right and the other is 100 percent wrong, it's useful to imagine the other.
       The reductive relativism may not appeal to all (why bother imagining anything about Bin Lidan, or Hitler, or the like ?), but the basic idea is a sound one. Of course, addressing an educated audience -- either in that auditorium in Germany, or among book buyers who pick up the handy Princeton University Press edition -- he's unlikely to be reaching those who are most in danger of falling into destructive fanaticism .....
       The September 2005 interview that rounds out the collection is also of some interest -- especially since it more directly addresses the situation on the ground in Israel. Amusingly enough, just a few months after it was conducted, it already reads completely out of date. Ariel Sharon's departure from the political scene and the success of Hamas in the Palestinian elections have yet again completely changed much of the situation. In the interview Oz praises Abu Mazen's new, less violent language -- but in early 2006 it is the far less conciliatory Hamas party-line that dominates. Still, the interview is a useful summary of Oz's thoughts on (and involvement in) the peace process.
       The lectures read very well -- crowd-pleasing stuff, well-presented, anecdote- and idea-filled. Oz sticks to basics, making only a few arguably controversial statements (for example, his insistence that the issue of the Palestinian refugees is the most urgent one to deal with). His 'cure' for fanaticism does seem a bit like intellectual wishful thinking, but in discussing the issue perhaps at least brings people to think about it from different perspectives (which would surely please him).
       Perhaps more thought-prodding than provoking, How to Cure a Fanatic is a worthwhile little collection, a modern writer addressing some of the significant issues of our day with a reasonable approach.

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How to Cure a Fanatic: Reviews (reviews marked with an asterisk (*) are of a different version of the book): Amos Oz:
  • The complete review's Amos Oz page
Other books by Amos Oz under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Israeli author Amos Oz (עמוס עוז) was born in 1939.

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© 2006-2013 the complete review

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