November 1st, 2004

Unto Death: Chronicle of a Crusade / Amos Oz

Embarrassingly, I had never read any of Amos Oz's books until now. The other day, I randomly grabbed a re-issued pocket edition of a 1969 novella by Oz, called Unto Death: Chronicle of a Crusade (עד מוות) to take with me, as I was anticipating waiting in some line that day. I have finished it (it is a mere 70 small pages) last night, and I am quite impressed. Oz's reputation is not unjustified; he crafts words quite beautifully, and his style is good.

It tells of a despondent French nobleman who decides the only thing to do is to go on a crusade to Jerusalem. He sets out with some fellow knights, slaves, and retainers, with neither map nor guidance. The novella depicts their journey across Europe, pillaging, raping, and murdering peasants and Jews along the way, while nightly praying for salvation, and growing increasingly frightened of a curse that they feel is upon them. Oz weaves an effective and engaging interplay of piety and depravity.

I think it affords several allegorical readings, but I haven't had time to formulate an interesting one yet. Do read it, it's excellent. It's been translated into quite a few languages, so those of you who can't read Hebrew are robbed of that excuse, at least.
  • Current Music
    Bob Dylan -- Visions of Johanna

The News in Brief

  • Today's monthly Project Ben-Yehuda update is the largest one to date, if memory serves. Again and again I am amazed by the power of Internet-based collaboration.

  • The colloquium exam I am to take sometime this year to complete my Classics B.A. is huge and damn scary. 100 pages of Greek prose, and 2000 lines of Greek verse, with which I must be perfectly familiar (i.e. able to "sight-translate" random bits without a dictionary, and explain grammatical and syntactical phenomena), plus an "unseen" Greek text of some sort. Ghastly. This exam I am supposed to prepare for, as Tom Lehrer put it, "in my copious free time". No idea how I'm going to manage it. (But I am!)

  • I've been offered a TA position at the TAU Classics dept. next year.

  • Really enjoying my courses this semester (except Latin).
  • Current Music
    Bob Dylan -- Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again