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Amos Oz, empathetic at 70

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As Israel prepares to celebrate the 70th birthday of literary giant and political activist Amos Oz, the author tells The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner that empathy is the common strain that runs through his fiction writing and political essays:

Now, as Israel prepares to mark his 70th birthday with a three-day festival in Arad and an academic conference at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba, both in May, and with his latest novella coming out in English translation along with a new selection of translated fiction and nonfiction called “The Amos Oz Reader,” he offers a way of viewing his two kinds of writing through a single lens. Both usher from the same source, he says — empathy. Both are about imagining the other.

“That’s what I do for a living,” he noted in his soft-spoken and precise English as he took a walk late one recent afternoon, the pink-tinged Arava desert and Dead Sea glistening on the horizon. “I get up in the morning, I drink a cup of coffee, I sit down at my desk and I start to ask myself: ‘What if I were him? What if I were her? How would I feel? What would I say? How would I react?’ ”

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