Pioneer stories

Scenes from Village Life, by Amos Oz, translated by Nicholas de Lange, Vintage, RRP£8.99, 272 pages

With titles such as “Strangers”, “Waiting” and “Lost”, it’s no surprise that these linked short fictions from one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists collectively generate a sense of unease. Set in the “pioneer village” of Tel Ilan, each story grows from a placid opening into an unexpected encounter that warps normality.

In the first tale, a stranger claiming to be a relative insinuates his way into Zelnik’s house; both men end up lying enraptured in bed with Zelnik’s decrepit mother. This sets a tone of surreality that later stories sustain. An old man complains of digging noises beneath his house; a real estate agent is chastely seduced in the dark cellar of a ruined property; the mayor’s wife simply disappears and the doctor’s nephew never arrives.

Oz’s cool, measured prose accumulates into a sense of uncertainty in a collection whose portentous ambience is resonant of the unnerving, fabular fiction of Magnus Mills or Haruki Murakami.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from and redistribute by email or post to the web.