Soumchi by Amos Oz

Soumchi by Amos Oz

Israeli fiction

Original title – סומכי

Translator – Amos Oz and Penelope Farmer

Source – personal copy

I always fall back to short books when I’m feeling down so I had this from the library and it was only 80 pages long so one evening last week I decided to read it it is the fourth book by the Great Amos Oz I have reviewed on the blog. It is also the earliest book written by Oz I have read it first came out in 1978 and this translation came out in 1980 and this new vintage edition came out a couple of years ago.

“Sum it up, Soumchi, sum it up, Soumchi”. While Mr Shitrit sweeled like a frog, grew red in the face and roared as usual:

“Let all flesh be silent!”And then, besides:”Not a dog shall bark!”

After five more minutes the class had quitened down again. But, almost to the eight grade I remained Soumchi. I’ve no ulterior motive in telling you all this. I simply want to steess one significant detail; a not sent to me  by Esthie at the endof that same lesson which read as follows:

You’re nuts. Why do you alway have to say things that get you in trouble? Stop it!

A note from the giurl he likes to stop being the class clown at tmes.

The book is narrated by Soumchi it’s the nickname of the narrator. The book is set in 1947 as Britain is still occupying Jerusalem. What we see is the day this young boy gets his first bicycle from his dodgy Uncle Zemach. The Uncle is known to dabble in Black Market. He also used to turn up with strange and exciting gifts for his nephew. So when he turns up with the bike for his nephew the parents aren’t too sure but Soumchi is happy. He is a boy that like many his age eleven is just discovering the other sex for him, in particular, it is one girl that has caught Soumchi eye. The Girl Esthi is one he is driven to try and impress and therefore get her attention. The book is filled with those daydream notions we have as a child the bike could take him to the heart of Africa or to the Himilayia’s. But the bike also causes problems for this bullied boy. His day gets worse when his best friend a richer boy who hasn’t a bike swaps the bike with him for a train set. We also see the Jerusalem under British control through a child’s eye.

This time, Uncle Zemach marked the feast of Shavout by riding all the way from the egged bus station in the Jaffa road to the courtyard of our house on a second hand raleigh bicycle, complete with every accssory: it had a bell, also a lamp, also a carrier, also a reflector at the back; all it lacked was the crossbar joining the saddle to the handlebar. But, in my first overwhelming joy, I overlooked just how grave a shortcoming that was.

Mother said: Really, this is excessive, Zemach, The boy is still only elven. What are you proposing to give him for his Bar Mitzva

Zemach had always turned up with strange and exciting gifts.

I have always been a fan of Oz’s books he is one of those writers that is on the edge of the Nobel prize. For me he is in the Pamuk and LLosa vein of writer his books are readable and compelling but maybe not great but always good if that makes sense. You can see on his Wiki page you can see a list of all the prizes that he has won from around the world. which include a couple of those prizes that other Nobel winners have won. This is a classic coming of age tale Soumchi is a typical boy he has to deal with blossoming teen hormones, Bullying, Love, and hate. He also is a great daydreamer and Imagination. Character-wise Soumchi has some similarities with the Narrator of Stand by me who also had a great imagination and also was starting to get interested in girls. reminded of the lines he said about never have friends and times like you do when you are twelve (or elven in this case). It is a view of a day in the life of a boy trying to get told in short chapters that keep the reader right there with Soumchi through his day the day he got a bike and what happened.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Jun 05, 2018 @ 01:01:27

    Yes, this sounds good. I like Oz. I like the way he makes a political or historical point through a tale of everyday life.

    Reply

  2. Bellezza
    Jun 05, 2018 @ 11:41:38

    I liked Judas so much, and I agree with you putting Oz in the same ‘camp’ as Pamuk. I’m glad to know about this title.

    Reply

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