Suddenly in the Depths of the Forestby Amos Oz
In a gray and gloomy village, all of the animals—from dogs and cats to fish and snails—disappeared years before. No one talks about it and no one knows why, though everyone agrees that the village has been cursed. But when two children see a fish—a tiny one and just for a second—they become determined to unravel the mystery of where the… See more details below
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In a gray and gloomy village, all of the animals—from dogs and cats to fish and snails—disappeared years before. No one talks about it and no one knows why, though everyone agrees that the village has been cursed. But when two children see a fish—a tiny one and just for a second—they become determined to unravel the mystery of where the animals have gone. And so they travel into the depths of the forest with that mission in mind, terrified and hopeful about what they may encounter.
From the internationally bestselling author Amos Oz, this is a hauntingly beautiful fable for both children and adults about tolerance, loneliness, denial, and remembrance.
"It's through Matti and Maya's willingness to challenge everything that Oz channels hope."—Publishers Weekly
"Oz creates palpable tension with a repetitive, almost hypnotic rhythm and lyrical language that twists a discussion-provoking morality tale into something much more enchanting." —Booklist
Praise for Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest from the UK: "If you're a reader... you'll be prepared simply to be enchanted. You'll recognize no one, and see only yourself." —The Guardian
"Both a children's fable and an allegory for adults. It may be a fast read, but it has enormous resonances." —The Independent
Praise for Rhyming Life and Death:
"From the prodigious Oz comes a delightfully elusive...story of imagination, talent and the transitory nature of fame...Stamped with Oz's charm and graceful skill in creating rich characters, this is a must for any fan." —Publishers Weekly
"Hilarious and profound, Oz’s tale of a mischievous taleteller ponders the eroticism of stories and the mysterious ways language and literature bridge the divide between inner and outer worlds; and it helps us make some sense, however gossamer, of life and death. A slyly philosophical novel." —Booklist
Matti and Maya live in a remote village in which there are no animals. Not a dog, cat, cow or bird; not fish nor bug nor worm. Did Nehi the Demon curse the village, and is he still a menacing presence? A collective wall of silence has been erected, reflecting a willful, selective memory. The community has a dynamic of bullying and cruelty, so those few that do speak of it are vilified and have retreated into bizarre eccentricity. Matti and Maya have actually seen a fish, sensed a bird in flight and had other experiences that gave them the impetus to search out the answers. Oz takes this dark, strange, otherworldly tale many layers deeper. Although the language is lovely, with many striking images, it is also often esoteric and obscuring. The narrator is an omniscient observer who tends to sermonize. Repetition and reiteration are deliberately employed, with several bits of plot and character descriptions reappearing almost word for word throughout the work. Even Matti and Maya often feel a sense of déjà vu. They might forget again, or they might break the cycle. Is the work fantasy, fable or allegory? In the end, after all the strangeness, the moral is rather obvious, but maybe young readers need to hear it. Flawed, but intriguing and unusual. (Fiction. 10-14)
Read an Excerpt
Emanuella the Teacher described to the class what a bear looks like, how fish breathe, and the kind of sounds a hyena makes at night. She also hung pictures of animals and birds on the classroom walls. Most of the children made fun of her, because they’d never seen an animal in their lives. Many of them didn’t quite believe there were such creatures in the world. At least not around here, they said. Besides, that teacher never found anyone in the whole village who had wanted to marry her, they said, and that’s why her head was full of foxes, sparrows, all sorts of things people think up when they’re lonely.
Emanuella’s descriptions had only a minor effect on the children, except for Little Nimi, who began to dream about animals at night. Most of his classmates laughed at him when, first thing in the morning, he told them how the brown shoes he’d put next to his bed before he went to sleep had turned into two hedgehogs in the dark and crawled around the room all night, but in the morning, when he opened his eyes, they were just a pair of shoes next to his bed again. Another time, black bats came to his room at midnight and carried him off on their wings, flew through the walls of the house up into the sky above the village and over mountains and forests till they brought him to an enchanted castle.
Nimi had a muddled brain and a constantly runny nose. He also had a large gap between his prominent front teeth. The children called that gap the garbage dump.
Every morning Nimi would come to class and begin telling everyone about a new dream, and every morning they would say enough, we’re sick and tired of you, shut that garbage dump of yours. And when he didn’t stop, they made fun of him. But instead of being offended, Nimi would join in the ridicule. He would breathe in his snot and swallow it, and, brimming over with joy, would call himself the most insulting names the children had given him: garbage dump, fuzzy- brain, hedgehog- shoes.
More than once, Maya, daughter of Lilia the Baker, had whispered to Nimi from her seat behind him in class: Nimi. Listen. Dream about whatever you want, animals, girls, but keep it to yourself. Don’t tell anyone. It just isn’t a good idea.
Matti said to Maya, You don’t understand. The only reason Nimi has those dreams is so he can tell us about them. And anyway, he doesn’t stop dreaming even when he wakes up in the morning.
Everything delighted Nimi, anything made him happy: the cracked mug in the kitchen and the full moon in the sky, Emanuella’s necklace and his own buck teeth, the buttons he forgot to button and the wind howling in the forest. Nimi found fun in everything there was and in anything that happened. And the least little thing was enough to make him burst out laughing.
Until the day he ran out of class, out of the village, and climbed up to the forest alone. Most of the village people searched for him for two or three days. The police searched for another week or ten days. After that, only his parents and sister kept looking. He came back three weeks later, thin and filthy, all scratched and bruised, but whooping with joy and excitement. And Little Nimi has been whooping ever since and has never spoken again: he hasn’t said a single word since he came back from the forest; he just wanders around the village streets barefoot and ragged, his nose running, baring his teeth and the gap between them, skipping from one backyard to another, climbing trees and poles, whooping all the time, his right eye constantly watering because of his allergy.
He couldn’t go back to school now that he had whoopitis. On their way home, the children would whoop at him on purpose to make him whoop back. They called him Nimi the Owl. The doctor said it would pass with time: perhaps there, in the forest, something had frightened or shocked him, and now he had whoopitis.
Maya said to Matti: Shouldn’t we do something? Try to help him? And Matti replied: No, Maya. They’ll get tired of it soon. They’ll forget about him soon.
When the children chased him off with their mockery and the pinecones and pieces of bark they threw at him, Little Nimi would run away, whooping. He’d climb the closest tree and from up in the high branches he would whoop at them again, with his one weepy eye and his buck teeth. And sometimes even in the middle of the night, the villagers thought they heard the distant echo of his whooping in the dark.
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