Judas by Amos Oz is set in Jerusalem in the winter of 1959. Shmuel is an idealistic left wing student who drops out of college and takes a job as a companion to Gershom Ward, an elderly invalided intellectual. As the novel unfolds Shmuel becomes obsessed with Atalia, Gershom’s widowed daughter-in-law and her late husband and father.
At one level this is a story of a young man’s fascination with an older woman and the gradual unfolding of tangled family relationships. At another level it provides an interesting insight into the debates within the zionist movement before independence in 1948 and the political tensions in the subsequent period, I don’t know how historically accurate the book is but Oz provides a thought provoking glimpse of alternative possibilities. A third strand to Judas is Shmuel’s stalled PhD thesis on Jewish attitudes to Jesus and the character and role of Judas in Jesus’ betrayal. If the Israeli politics and Judas strands are meant to be linked, the connection passed me by.
I found Judas to be a tiresome and unrewarding read, I struggled to empathise with any of the characters, I’d rather read history than search for glimpses in the narrative and by the end I didn’t care how the plot finished I just wanted it to be over. This was 2 star material slightly redeemed by the interesting historical bits.