- 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)
Fima Paperback – 20 Oct 1994
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"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)
'Fima is surely his best book, a celebration of human complexity, and his testament to its achievement' - Scotland on SundaySee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
"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.