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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction


The Story Begins

Amos Oz

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Story Begins

Title: The Story Begins
Author: Amos Oz
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 1996 (Eng. 1999)
Length: 115 pages
Original in: Hebrew
Availability: The Story Begins - US
The Story Begins - UK
The Story Begins - Canada
The Story Begins - India
L'histoire commence - France
So fangen die Geschichten an - Deutschland
  • Hebrew title: מתחילים סיפור
  • Essays On Literature
  • Translated by Maggie Bar-Tura

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Our Assessment:

B : interesting idea, fairly well done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 20/3/1998 Jakob Hessing
The NY Times Book Rev. . 4/7/1999 Laurie Adlerstein
The Observer . 18/6/2000 Claudia Pugh-Thomas
World Lit. Today . Summer/1999 Eric Sterling

  Review Consensus:

  Like it

  From the Reviews:
  • "Amos Oz macht das Wesen der Literatur sichtbar. Alle Gegensätze, unter die erdie Anfänge seiner Texte stellt, sind nur Erscheinungsformen einer Dialektik, ohne die der Schriftsteller nicht auskommt. Selbst dort noch, wo ein wortloser Anfang sich ihm verweigert, bringt er eine zweite Stimme zum Klingen, um die Einheit des Ursprungs in Rede und Gegenrede zu teilen." - Jakob Hessing, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "(A) lustrous collection of essays drawn from his lectures and classes. (...) Although he raises crucial questions, Oz recognizes that many of the answers lie beyond his grasp; rather than get mired, he lightens his tone and nimbly moves on, taking the reader with him. Maggie Bar-Tura's crystalline translation from the Hebrew deftly preserves Oz's many moods." - Laurie Adlerstein, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Amos Oz's slim collection of 10 essays is a joy to read. (...) The essays are short and snappy, tinged with humour and beautifully written" - Claudia Pugh-Thomas, The Observer

  • "Amos Oz's essay collection is an insightful study of the significance of opening passages in selected fictional works of literature. The author demonstrates how the beginnings of fictional works serve as contracts that bind together writer and reader. Although Oz analyzes but one story in each chapter, he cleverly makes connections between the stories -- e.g., the birth metaphor in "The Nose" and "A Country Doctor" -- in order to establish paradigms that support his thesis." - Eric Sterling, World Literature Today

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:

       The Story Begins takes an interesting approach to the analysis and consideration of a variety of texts, focussing on the beginnings of these stories and novels and building on that. Based on Oz's lectures -- to everyone from his high school audiences to university students as well as some delivered for the general public -- this is, like the beginning of a story should be, a clever hook, and Oz also proves up to the task of using that small platform to delve deeper into the works.
       The texts range from Fontane's Effi Briest to García Márquez's The Autumn of the Patriarch to stories by Kafka, Chekhov, and Raymond Carver. Ten works in all are discussed, in each the beginning a starting point, though generally Oz addresses the whole text -- focussing on how the beginning lures the reader in, or sets the stage (or, in some cases, fools the reader). The pieces are fairly short, but he offers considerable insight, from the games Gogol plays in The Nose to the rapes in Elsa Morante's History: A Novel.
       Oz begins the book as a writer, discussing the difficulties posed by that blank page and the question of how to start, but for the most part he looks at these texts as a reader. He chooses to see the beginning of a story or novel as "a kind of contract between writer and reader", a slightly formal way of considering it, but of some use. (Since there is no negotiation between writer and reader, the latter left in the position only to accept or decline the terms, it's not an ideal comparison; part of his point is also that both sides can choose to interpret the contract differently, again making the legalistic term (where there is a final arbiter over meaning -- the courts -- and the side found in the wrong must compensate the other) not quite the right one.)
       The variety of texts, and different authorial approaches -- fairly well and succinctly described by Oz -- is what makes this slim volume of interest. For the most part, this isn't very in-depth analysis, but Oz deftly shows what might appeal about the text, and what the author might have been trying to do (or inadvertently accomplished).
       The mixed bag of authors -- and the fact that many of the texts will not be familiar -- makes it of somewhat limited use, but as a short introduction and a suggestion of how to approach books it's worth a look.

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The Story Begins: Reviews: 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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© 2005-2013 the complete review

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