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Fima Paperback – 20 Oct 1994

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (20 Oct. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099933608
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099933601
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,566,201 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"There is no novelist writing today who catches the feeling of the moment more surely than Amos Oz" (Scotsman)

"The book eavesdrops on several days in the life of this Jewish Walter Mitty, a Dostoevskian holy fool minus the faith, with the penchant for casuistic sophistry of Bellow's Herzog" (Sunday Telegraph)

"This might turn out to be the first entry into Israel's "post-war" literary canon" (Independent)

"A warm, enhancing experience" (Spectator)

"A thinking woman's Billy Liar" (Observer)

Book Description

'Fima is surely his best book, a celebration of human complexity, and his testament to its achievement' - Scotland on Sunday

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Amos Oz, along with David Grossman, are two of Israel’s finest living authors. They craft good to great literature in its own right, and couple it with the twists and nuances that define the Jewish identity. Moreover, it is the identity of those who have chosen to forego the “diaspora.”

I first recognized Oz’s talent after reading a collection of his non-fiction vignettes of Israel in the ‘80’s, entitled In the Land of Israel). Fima is his first work of fiction that I’ve read. Reviewers have called the protagonist, Efraim (Fima) Nisan, a Jewish “Walter Mitty.” James Thurber, in "Secret Life of Walter Mitty" introduced this term into the English language to denote a generally ineffectual individual who lives his life in daydreams and fantasies. Oz draws a fascinating portrait of this archetype, rooted in the Land of Israel. Fima is on the cusp of late middle age, working as a receptionist in a gynecology clinic, still surviving on handouts from his father. For sure, his fantasies involve women, especially the ones neglected by their husbands, who may or not be an easy “mark.” The novel is “dense,” with the personal insights of good literature, surrounding islands of scathing political commentary, which only a Jew “of the land” can readily and safely make. A couple of right-wing Israeli reviewers have inferred that Fima’s ineffectual nature is an apt symbol for the entire Jewish Left. But before the politics, consider the depictive touches that require the turning on of the bathroom faucet in order to encourage what is only a thin trickle.

As for the politics, Oz is clear-sighted, and pulls no punches.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 9 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful loser...or is he?... 30 May 2011
By John P. Jones III - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Amos Oz, along with David Grossman, are two of Israel's finest living authors. They craft good to great literature in its own right, and couple it with the twists and nuances that define the Jewish identity. Moreover, it is the identity of those who have chosen to forego the "diaspora."

I first recognized Oz's talent after reading a collection of his non-fiction vignettes of Israel in the `80's, entitled In the Land of Israel (Harvest in Translation). Fima is his first work of fiction that I've read. Reviewers have called the protagonist, Efraim (Fima) Nisan, a Jewish "Walter Mitty." James Thurber, in Secret Lives of Walter Mitty and of James Thurber (Wonderfully Illustrated Short Pieces) (No. 1) introduced this term into the English language to denote a generally ineffectual individual who lives his life in daydreams and fantasies. Oz draws a fascinating portrait of this archetype, rooted in the Land of Israel. Fima is on the cusp of late middle age, working as a receptionist in a gynecology clinic, still surviving on handouts from his father. For sure, his fantasies involve women, especially the ones neglected by their husbands, who may or not be an easy "mark." The novel is "dense," with the personal insights of good literature, surrounding islands of scathing political commentary, which only a Jew "of the land" can readily and safely make. A couple of right-wing Israeli reviewers have inferred that Fima's ineffectual nature is an apt symbol for the entire Jewish Left. But before the politics, consider the depictive touches that require the turning on of the bathroom faucet in order to encourage what is only a thin trickle.

As for the politics, Oz is clear-sighted, and pulls no punches. For example: "Although in fact it might be a healthy and wholly laudable sense of shame that prevented us from announcing simply: a Jewish solder has shot and killed an Arab teenager." Rather, with the corruption of language that Oz denounces, it was a "plastic bullet" that killed the Arab, and only "presumably" by the Jewish soldier. Oz has Fima rant even, about the idea that Auschwitz should be a Jewish site. Instead, he would rather saddle the place with Christendom in general, and Polish Catholicism in particular. More scalding still: "Why the hell are we all brain-washed into believing that the concept of human equality is something alien to Judaism, a flawed goyish commodity, tainted Christian pacifism, whereas the muddle-headed mishmash brewed up by some messianic rabbi, the grandfather of Gush Emunim, who has cobbled together a patchwork of scraps from Hegel, Judah Halevi, and Rabbi Loew of Prague, is suddenly considered to be the pure elixir of Judaism, straight from Mount Sinai? What is this? Sheer lunacy!"

Ah, and there is the perennial subject of, in this case, man's relationship with women: "We've had to put up with so much bull**** from the poets, with their Beatrices, their earth mothers, their gazelles, their tigresses... and all that nonsense. Let me tell you, being a man strikes me as a thousand times more complicated than that. Or maybe it's not complicated at all, all that lousy bargaining. You give me sex, I'll give you a bit of tenderness. Or an impression of tenderness."

Oz assumes his reader is well-read, and there are numerous references to the world's literature, and a bit more challenging (or educating) for the non-Jewish reader, to Jewish history and tradition as well. After all, how many non-Jews know what Rabbi Loew of Prague is famous (or is it infamous) for?

A joy to read, with prose that "goes down smooth." A solid 5-stars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amos Oz the Prophet 27 Nov. 2012
By Mike - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I swear I was planning on calling this review "Amos Oz the Prophet" before seeing the similarly titled review :-) There are two types of good books in my mind. There's the thriller which you consume like a bag of potato chips and then its gone. Then there are quality gems like Fima which you read slowly, maybe over a period of weeks or months and you take in everything it has to say; within the food metaphor, these are like cheese cake or a 30 year scotch, you savor every taste. Amos Oz creates an odd main character to share his political take on Israel society about around 1990. He makes predictions that have become eerily true (topping the list is that a left wing leader who tries to make peace with the Palestinians would be killed by an Israeli...Rabin).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars food for thought and another great book about Israel 5 Dec. 2006
By Aleksandra Nita-Lazar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
There are many people who suggest that Amos Oz is actually a political activist, not a writer. In fact, I think he is both. He has very clear political views (and, incidentally, I completely agree with him and admire him for them) and is a very skilled writer, who has good ideas for fiction books and is able to lay them out in very transparent prose, which makes the result infallibly a pleasure to read. And not only a pleasure, but a food for thought.

"Fima" is a book where at least two planes are immediately discernible. They are in agreement with the "double identity" of the author - one is a great critical view of Israel's political situation, with an acute analysis of nearly every fraction and orientation, the media, the traditions, the language; the second one is a great portrait of the main character, Efraim (Fima) Nisan who expresses all the layers of the first plane. Probably one of the greater protagonists in the contemporary literature, Fima has a complex personality, which makes him rather difficult to deal with. Difficult for his friends and family as well as for the reader - he is not easy to classify in any way, he is neither a hero nor a villain... If anything, he might be called an anti-hero of our times.

A middle-aged man, Fima lives alone in an apartment in Jerusalem. He is divorced, practically lives off his father, who owns a successful cosmetics factory and at every visit slips some money into Fima's pocket. Although he missed nothing in life, being from a well- off family and having received a solid education in humanities, Fima cannot be called successful himself. At least not in the American sense of the word. I cannot blame the American readers who wrote the reviews below for perceiving him as a loser - by their standards he is one. He works at the reception desk in the gynecological clinic. Sometimes he does not show up to work at all. From time to time he writes an article to a magazine, mostly expressing his political views, proof- reads the scientific papers of his friends - professors, and helps the nurse at the clinic with more difficult crossword clues. Intelectually, he is missing nothing. Still, he is absolutely lost in his relations with people, in the daily life, a mess of animated and unanimated surroundings, he takes things as they come but does nothing with them. He ponders on every detail, every smallest event cause him to stop on his way or change completely the course of his day. Everything can be a beginning of a small philosophical treatise.

Oz puts in Fima's mouth the criticism of Israeli political course, the never ending war with the Arabs, which are probably his own views, but being uttered by Fima, an absolutely passive being, who does absolutely nothing to change anything (in fact, he is an emotional parasite), they become a criticism of the Israeli left as well. In fact, I know a lot of people who opposed the system in exactly the same way as Fima does, by passive resistance and this helped them to stay sane and support the change when it came, therefore they are not completely useless. Nevertheless, someone else had to initiate the change.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fima, a symbol of unfulfilled promise in the state of Israel 8 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Amos Oz's "Fima" as translated by Nicholas de Lange is the story of Efraim Nison, son of a cosmetics manufacturing industrialist, and an intellectual and poet whose life never quite gets off the ground. He spends half his time working as a lowly receptionist in a clinic and the other half struggling to stay in one piece, if not boring his friends to death pontificating about the dismal state of politics prevailing in the modern state of Israel. He engages his family and friends but is succoured by them. His relationships with various women including his ex-wife are also frankly ludicrous. But Efraim's incoherent and wasted life cannot be interpreted as anything other than Oz's metaphor for the moribund state of Israel's moral authority after securing its own nationhood. He questions the hardline Jewish approach to its Arab neighbours today by drawing parallels with the mentality of the Nazis in the 30s and 40s. The lurking blood hound in man is humourously but no less chillingly portrayed in the episode with the cockroach. Dimi's shattering confession to Efraim about the dog is equally poignant. Oz, though cynical about the lasting effects of positive action on future generations, ends on a quietly optimistic note. "Fima" isn't exactly an easy book to digest. The symbolism is a little heavyhanded in parts, but the undeniable sense of humour in Oz's writing carries the book. Oz is in fine form for most of the way but gets distracted and loses focus towards the last third. Still, "Fima" makes an intellectually stimulating read and is definitely worth checking out.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Luftmensch in Israel 16 May 2008
By Eric Maroney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In Fima, Amoz Oz plays with an age old theme in Jewish literature: the over-intellectual ne'er-do-well who cannot quite get his life on track. In Yiddish, this person is known as a luftmensch (literally an air person): someone with big schemes and little ability to put them into practice. Add to this Efraim's (the Fima of the English title) physical dishevelment, his vacillation between gross worship and misogynistic attitudes toward women, and the picture is comedy without dipping into stereotype. Fima keeps his humanity in the novel, despite Oz's obvious play with a well-known Jewish stock character. Also in Fima one can sense Oz trying to come to terms with women: with the problem of women in male literature and with his own writing about them. Oz has seldom written well-rounded female character, and in Fima there is a tacit acknowledgement of this. The novel's title is a man's name, but really the book is about, in great part, an exploration of male attitudes toward women.
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