Between Friends by Amos Oz

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories, all dealing with the same characters and all set in a kibbutz. I was attracted to a kibbutz myself, when I was about 18, probably towards the end of the period during which working on one was on the list of things that people of that age in the UK did, along with riding on a double decker bus to India and working as a helper on Camp America.

The stories are all about the relationships within the kibbutz but they are never cloying and each, in its own way, raises questions about the system: the way in which women are not treated equally; the restrictions imposed by communal living on personal freedom; and the dominance of the articulate and the ideological. It also reminds the reader of the embattled and politicised nature of Israel, at least as understood by the kibbutzim.

There are some phrases repeated, not particularly meaningful ones, in several of the stories but I put that down to the translation.

Overall, I am not sorry, after reading this book, that my youthful flirtation with heading off to a kibbutz never led anywhere. It all sounds a bit weird.

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