Audio – 0:20:40

Readings with Amos Oz & Mirjam Pressler

Internationaler Literaturpreis 2015 | Long Night of the Shortlist and Award Ceremony 2015
Wed, Jul 8, 2015

2015 award winners

Amos Oz: Judas
Translated from the Hebrew by Mirjam Pressler | Habesora al pi Jehuda
Suhrkamp Verlag 2015 | Keter, Jerusalem 2014

“In his novel, Amos Oz is masterfully able to convey the big issues and conflicts of religious and contemporary history in the Middle East. He interlaces ancient times with the present, contrasting the conflict between Judaism and Christianity with modern Jewish-Palestinian reality. With his three characters – naïve, indecisive Shmuel Asch, the aged cynic Gershom Wald and his widowed daughter-in-law Athaliah Abrabanel – the author confidently reflects his knowledge of political history, thus creating an unconventional piece of world literature. The novel ‘Judas’ newly poses the question of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity based on the biblical Judas. He links the issue of betrayal with the actual political events during the founding phase of the State of Israel and in the ongoing Middle East conflict. The book’s secret is the way it portrays the moods among the conflicting parties, mirrored in the conversations of the three protagonists. In her German translation, Mirjam Pressler is able to convey a fine nuance of the atmosphere that permeates and carries this intelligent and multi-layered work.” (The jury on the 2015 award winners)

The life of the young Shmuel Asch changes radically in the winter of 1959. His girlfriend leaves him, his parents declare bankruptcy and he has to break off his studies. He finds shelter and work in an old house in Jerusalem as a companion for the rhetorically skilful and peculiar Gershom Wald. There he meets the beautiful and unapproachable Athaliah Abrabanel, daughter of a deceased leader of the Zionist movement. The novel’s three protagonists live withdrawn lives on the edge of the city. But desire and curiosity are transformed into desperate infatuation, breaking loose a storm inside the shy and sensitive Shmuel and he again begins to work on his graduation thesis on “Jesus from the Perspective of the Jews,” becomes lost in the mysterious pull exerted on him by Judas Iscariot, the incarnation of treachery and baseness, and at night talks with Gershom Wald about the ideals of Zionism, Jewish-Arab conflicts, in short, about everything under the sun. Gradually he decrypts the secrets of the inhabitants of the lonely house, their involvement and the human tragedy before and after the establishment of Israel in the year 1948.