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The Same Sea

The Same Sea

5.0 1
by Amos Oz

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The Same Sea is Amos Oz's most adventurous and inventive novel, the book by which he would like to be remembered. The cast of characters ranges from a prodigal son to a widowed father who has taken in his son's enticing young girlfriend, who in turn sleeps with her boyfriend's close friend. The author himself receives phone calls from his characters,


The Same Sea is Amos Oz's most adventurous and inventive novel, the book by which he would like to be remembered. The cast of characters ranges from a prodigal son to a widowed father who has taken in his son's enticing young girlfriend, who in turn sleeps with her boyfriend's close friend. The author himself receives phone calls from his characters, criticizing the way he portrays them in his novel. In this human profusion there is chaos and order, love and eroticism, loyalty and betrayal, and ultimately an extraordinary energy.

Editorial Reviews

In this book of narrative verse, emotional conflicts and competing voices and viewpoints reconcile themselves into what Oz calls "a number of intersecting triangles." The story centers on a group of weary and perplexed people living in Tel Aviv, Israel, including Albert, a grieving widower; Rico, his distraught son; and Rico's girlfriend, Dita. The book achieves harmony through its characters, all of whom are trying to resolve conflicts in their lives. As the narrator points out, "The peace process is slow and painful. You will have to make one or two further concessions. Only what is truly a matter of life and death should not be negotiable." In this powerful work, Oz lays bare many issues that only appear to be earth-shattering. Most important, he reveals the quotidian concessions that negotiation requires of us all.
—Stephen Whited

Publishers Weekly
A meditation, a lamentation, a quest for meaning, a story of family love and of erotic longing, and a vibrantly poetic prose poem, this latest novel by one of Israel's preeminent writers ends with a tentative (but only tentative) affirmation about the future of his nation. That message is the subtle subtext of this narrative of intertwined lives. Albert Danon is a mild accountant whose beloved wife, Nadia, has died, and whose son, Rico, has exiled himself to Tibet, Bangladesh and other remote places where he is haunted by his mother's memory and by his conviction that "everyone... is condemned to wait for their own death locked in a separate cage." Another member of this restless, bitter generation, Rico's girlfriend, Dita, moves in with Albert when a shabby film producer cheats her of all her money. Suffused with lust and shame, Albert desires Dita, even while an elderly widow yearns for him; meanwhile, Dita sleeps with Rico's best friend. This small domestic comedy is expressed in musical language charged with lyric intensity, translated by de Lange in collaboration with the author. The free-form verse hovers on the edge of poetry, sometimes slipping into rhyme. A singing bird, the desert and the eternal sea are recurring images, and references to biblical passages add texture. The characters, including the narrator, live in the shadow of their own mortality and general fear. "We have wandered enough; it is time to make peace," the narrator muses. Perhaps, the reader feels, Nadia represents the lost dream of peace that hovers in the memory. In a prefatory statement, Oz (Panther in the Basement, etc.) writes that he thinks this book comes closest to what he wants to say. His eloquentmessage illuminates a book of classic resonance and haunting literary beauty. 9-city author tour. (Oct.) Forecast: Because of its unconventional format, hovering between prose and verse, this novel may depend on hand-selling to discriminating readers. Oz's existing audience, however, will respond to his usual mixture of cynicism and hope. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Oz's most experimental fiction in years uses poetry and prose to tell a convoluted story of interlocking relationships. A new novel from one of the most compelling voices in Israeli literature (The Story Begins, 1999, etc.) should be a cause for celebration, but The Same Sea is at best an intriguing mess. The problem lies in a collision of form and content, and a large cast of characters whose relationships are intricate without being interesting. Albert, an accountant, is recently widowed; his son Enrico is now wandering the Himalayas, trying to learn why his mother died. Dita, Enrico's girlfriend, swindled by would-be film producer Dubi, moves in with Albert in an act of desperation. Albert tries to untangle her contract with Dubi and ends up as Dubi's tax adviser (and reluctant father figure). Add to this a mysterious Portuguese woman who sleeps with Enrico, a carpenter dead by suicide, Albert's co-worker and confidante Bettina, who has a yen for him dating back decades, a cryptic yuppie named Giggy who sleeps with Dita and, just to make the whole thing depressingly postmodern, the Narrator (clearly Oz himself, and gradually an active participant in the roundelay). The primary problem is that Oz chooses to tell this overstuffed tale as a series of vignettes, none more than four or five pages long, most much shorter, cross-cutting cinematically between Tel Aviv, Arad, Tibet, the past, the present, and even the future. As a result, few of the people acquire resonance, none of the situations are allowed to develop in a straight line, and, ultimately, the reader doesn't care what happens. There are moments of genuine power: the re-creation of Albert's awkward courting of Nadia has apoignancy underlined by our knowledge of her death; much of the material involving the Narrator is wittily self-deprecating. The verse passages, though, are almost embarrassing and the overall effect is surprisingly numbing. A major disappointment from a major author. Author tour
From the Publisher


"In a world full of hype, noise, and confusion, the simple lucidity of The Same Sea is totally unexpected."--The New York Times Book Review

"This lovely, lyrical territory, irrigated by numerous streams of consciousness, reminded me of some of the great things a novel can do."--Chicago Tribune

Product Details

Vintage/Ebury (a Division of Random
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A cat

Not far from the sea, Mr. Albert Danon lives in Amirim Street, alone. He is fond of olives and feta; a mild accountant, he lost his wife not long ago. Nadia Danon died one morning of ovarian cancer, leaving some clothes, a dressing table, some finely embroidered place mats. Their only son, Enrico David, has gone off mountaineering in Tibet.

Here in Bat Yam the summer morning is hot and clammy but on those mountains night is falling. Mist is swirling low in the ravines. A needle-sharp wind howls as though alive, and the fading light looks more and more like a nasty dream.

At this point the path forks: one way is steep, the other gently sloping. Not a trace on the map of the fork in the path. And as the evening darkens and the wind lashes him with sharp hailstones, Rico has to guess whether to take the shorter or the easier way down.

Either way, Mr. Danon will get up now and switch off his computer. He will go and stand by the window. Outside in the yard on the wall is a cat. It has spotted a lizard. It will not let go.

A bird

Nadia Danon. Not long before she died a bird on a branch woke her. At four in the morning, before it was light, narimi narimi said the bird.

What will I be when I'm dead? A sound or a scent or neither. I've started a mat. I may still finish it. Dr. Pinto is optimistic: the situation is stable. The left one is a little less good. The right one is fine. The X-rays are clear. See for yourself: no secondaries here.

At four in the morning, before it is light, Nadia Danon begins to remember. Ewes' milk cheese. A glass of wine. A bunch of grapes. A scent of slow evening on the Cretan hills, the taste of cold water, the whispering of pines, the shadow of the mountains spreading over the plain, narimi narimi the bird sang there. I'll sit here and sew. I'll be finished by morning.


Rico David was always reading. He thought the world was in a bad way. The shelves are covered with piles of his books, pamphlets, papers, publications, on all sorts of wrongs: black studies, women's studies, lesbians and gays, child abuse, drugs, race, rain forests, the hole in the ozone layer, not to mention injustice in the Middle East. Always reading. He read everything. He went to a left-wing rally with his girlfriend Dita Inbar. Left without saying a word. Forgot to call. Came home late. Played his guitar.

Your mother begs you, his father pleaded. She's not feeling too— and you're making it worse. Rico said, OK, give me a break. But how can anyone be so insensitive? Forgetting to switch off. Forgetting to close. Forgetting to get back before three in the morning.

Dita said: Mr. Danon, try to see it his way. It's painful for him too. Now you're making him feel guilty; after all, it's not his fault she's dead. He has a right to a life of his own. What did you expect him to do? Sit holding her hand? Life goes on. One way or another everyone gets left alone. I'm not much for this trip to Tibet either, but still, he's entitled to try to find himself. Especially after losing his mother. He'll be back, Mr. Danon, but don't hang around waiting for him. Do some work, get some exercise, whatever. I'll drop by sometime.

And since then he goes out to the garden at times. Prunes the roses. Ties up the sweet peas. Inhales the smell of the sea from afar, salt, seaweed, the warm dampness. He might call her tomorrow. But Rico forgot to leave her number and there are dozens of Inbars in the phone book.

Later, in Tibet

One summer morning, when he was young, he and his mother took the bus from Bat Yam to Jaffa, to see his Aunt Clara. The night before he refused to sleep: he was afraid the alarm clock would stop in the night, and he wouldn't wake. And what if it rains, or if we are late.

Between Bat Yam and Jaffa a donkey cart had overturned. Smashed watermelons on the asphalt, a blood bath. Then the fat driver took offense and shouted at another fat man, with greased hair. An old lady yawned at his mother. Her mouth was a grave, empty and deep. On a bench at a stop sat a man in a tie and white shirt, wearing his jacket over his knees. He wouldn't board the bus. Waved it on. Maybe he was waiting for another bus. Then they saw a squashed cat. His mother pressed his head to her tummy: don't look, you'll cry out again in your sleep. Then a girl with her head shaved: lice? Her crossed leg almost revealed a glimpse. And an unfinished building and dunes of sand. An Arab coffee house. Wicker stools. Smoke, acrid and thick. Two men bending forward, heads almost touching.

A ruin. A church. A fig tree. A bell. A tower. A tiled roof. Wrought-iron grilles. A lemon tree. The smell of fried fish. And between two walls a sail and a sea rocking.

Then an orchard, a convent, palm trees, date palms perhaps, and shattered buildings; if you continue along this road you eventually reach south Tel Aviv. Then the Yarkon. Then citrus groves. Villages. And beyond the mountains. And after that it is already night. The uplands of Galilee. Syria. Russia. Or Lapland. The tundra. Snowy steppes.

Later, in Tibet, more asleep than awake, he remembers his mother. If we don't wake up we've had it. We'll be late. In the snow in the tent in the sleeping-bag he stretches to press his head to her tummy.


In Amirim Street Mr. Danon is still awake. It's two in the morning. On the screen before him the figures don't add up. Some company or other. A mistake or a fraud? He checks. Can't spot anything. On an embroidered mat the tin clock ticks. He puts on his coat and goes out. It's six now in Tibet. A smell of rain but no rain in the street in Bat Yam. Which is empty. Silent. Blocks of flats. A mistake or a fraud. Tomorrow we'll see.

A mosquito

Dita slept with a good friend of Rico's, Giggy Ben-Gal. He got on her nerves when he called screwing intercourse. He disgusted her by asking her afterwards how good it had been for her on a scale of nought to a hundred. He had an opinion about everything. He started yammering on about the female orgasm being less physical, more emotional. Then he discovered a fat mosquito on her shoulder. He squashed it, brushed it off, rustled the local paper and fell asleep on his back. Arms spread out in a cross. Leaving no room for her. His cock shrivelled too and went to sleep with a mosquito on it: blood vengeance.

She took a shower. Combed her hair. Put on a black T-shirt that Rico had left in one of her drawers. Less. Or more. Emotional. Physical. Sexy. Bullshit. Sensual. Sexual. Opinions night and day. That's wrong. That's right. What's squashed can't be unsquashed. I ought to go and see how the old man's doing.

Excerpted from The Same Sea by AMOS OZ. Copyright © 1999 by Amos Oz and Keter Publishing House Ltd.. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

Amos Oz is the author of more than a dozen novels and collections of short fiction, and numerous works of nonfiction. His acclaimed memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness was an international bestseller and recipient of the prestigious Goethe Prize, as well as the National Jewish Book Award. Scenes from Village Life, a New York Times Notable Book, was awarded the Prix Méditerranée Étranger in 2010.

Elijah Alexander has worked professionally as an actor for over fifteen years. He has worked and lived in New York, where he performed in numerous productions, including the Tony Award–winning play Metamorphoses. He worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company for two years and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for two seasons, as well as regionally at various other theaters. In Los Angeles, he has worked on critically acclaimed productions of Sleuth, produced by Garry Marshall, and other works. His film and television credits include Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Emily’s Reasons Why Not, JAG, Summerland, So NoTORIous, and Guiding Light. He was the voice of Vayne Solidor in Final Fantasy XII and has done several commercial voiceovers. He is currently the voice of Kenmore and has narrated more than ten audiobooks, including James Jones’ acclaimed novel From Here to Eternity.

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The Same Sea 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Same Sea by Amos Oz. Five Stars. What a beautiful book! But, not at all for readers who must have things simply clear cut and well dried. This is a book for the unashamedly naive and unashamedly mature. The Same Sea is not a page turner; it is a thought provoker. This is a book for those who seek insight and can recognize their own hungry questions and create their own nourishing answers. This is a book of for introspection, self awareness, and honesty. The Same Sea is evidence, if evidence is needed, that Amos Oz has spent his lifetime living and learning and perfecting his art. Surely he has equalled if not surpassed all of his teachers. There is nothing engagingly superficial about The Same Sea and readers of the superficial need not apply. Do not come to this book knowing nothing about the book or the author. That Amos Oz lives in the same sea as do we is a gift to us.