Scenes from a Village Life by Amos Oz is not a novel. Neither is it a short-story collection. It is a collection of inter-related tales, which are glimpses of everyday Israeli society and that is what makes this book different.
The tales take place in the fictional village of Tel Ilan, where a lot of strange things start happening to common people. There are eight brilliant, thought-provoking, perceptive and sometimes disturbing vignettes that make this book worth it.
For instance, I can only think of Amos Oz writing the way he does and portraying the puppy love of a seventeen year old boy for a librarian twice his age or for that matter the first story Heirs, which talks of an unusual stranger who arrives at the home of a troubled man, wanting to buy it.
Amos Oz’s stories/tales are not easy to comprehend at the first read. Also there were times I felt that there are emotions that can get lost in translation, however that was not the case that often in this read. Amos Oz cleverly explores the psyche of people in a small village and what they might encounter and make of unusual situations or circumstances. The slice of life element in this book mixed with the touch of fantasy is very well done – both by the author and the translator.
Several stories are meant to be understood, given they are allegorical in nature. At the same time the images and symbolism are quite heavy-handed to be understood by the common reader and need decoding. Scenes from a Village life at the end of the day is more about life in general than anything else. This is a book that aches of the quiet melancholies of life.
As one of the characters says, “Our unhappiness is partly our fault and partly your fault. But your unhappiness comes from your soul. Or from your heart. It’s hard to know. It comes from you. From inside.”
Scenes from a Village Life is not for a rushed read. It needs to be savoured and pondered about for some time. Read it when you have the time and the inclination for this sort of a book.