See his memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness (2003, tr. 2004); N. Ben-Dov, ed., The Amos Oz Reader (2009); studies by A. Balaban (1993) and Y. Mazor (2002).
Oz was born in Jerusalem, where he grew up at No. 18 Amos Street in the Kerem Avraham neighborhood. Roughly half of his fiction is set within a mile of where he grew up. His parents, Yehuda Arieh Klausner (Hebrew: יהודה אריה קלוזנר) and Fania Mussman (פאניה מוסמן), were Zionist immigrants from Eastern Europe. His father studied history and literature in Vilnius, Lithuania. In Jerusalem his father was a librarian and writer. His maternal grandfather had owned a mill in Rovno, then Eastern Poland, now Western Ukraine, but moved with his family to Haifa in 1934. Many of Klausner's family members were right-wing Revisionist Zionists. His great uncle Joseph Klausner was the Herut party candidate for the presidency against Chaim Weizmann and was chair of the Hebrew literary society at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He and his family were distant from religion, disdaining what they perceived to be its irrationality. Yet he attended the community religious school Tachkemoni. The alternative was the socialistic school affiliated with the labor movement, to which his family was decidedly opposed in their political values. The noted poet Zelda was one of his teachers. His secondary schooling took place at the Hebrew high school Rehavia.
His mother committed suicide when he was twelve, causing him repercussions that he would explore in his memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness. He became a Labor Zionist and joined kibbutz Hulda at the age of fifteen. There he was adopted by the Huldai family (whose firstborn son Ron now serves as mayor of Tel Aviv) and lived a full kibbutz life. At this time he changed his surname to "Oz", Hebrew for "strength". "Tel Aviv was not radical enough," he later said, "only the kibbutz was radical enough." However, by his own account he was "a disaster as a laborer... the joke of the kibbutz." He remained living and working on the kibbutz until he and his wife Nily moved to Arad in 1986 on account of his son Daniel's asthma; however, as his writing career flowered he was allowed to gradually decrease his time devoted to normal kibbutz work: the royalties from his writing produced sufficient income for the kibbutz to justify this. In his own words, he "became a branch of the farm".
Like most Israeli Jews, he served in the Israeli Defense Forces. In the late 1950s he served in the kibbutz-oriented Nahal unit and was involved in border skirmishes with Syria; during the Six-Day War (1967) he was with a tank unit in Sinai; during the Yom Kippur War (1973) he served in the Golan Heights. After Nahal, Oz studied philosophy and Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University. Except for some short articles in the kibbutz newsletter and the newspaper Davar, he didn't publish anything until the age of 22, when he began to publish books. His first collection of stories Where the Jackals Howl appeared in 1965. His first novel Elsewhere, Perhaps was published in 1966. He began to write incessantly, publishing an average of one book per year on the Labor Party press, Am Oved. Oz left Am Oved despite his political affiliation. He went to Keter because he received an exclusive contract that granted him a fixed monthly salary regardless of frequency of publication. His oldest daughter, Fania Oz-Salzberger, teaches history at Haifa University.
Oz has written 18 books in Hebrew, and about 450 articles and essays. His works have been translated into some 30 languages. He was awarded his country’s most prestigious prize: the Israel Prize for Literature in 1998, the fiftieth anniversary year of Israel’s independence. In 2005, he was awarded the Goethe Prize from the city of Frankfurt, Germany, a prestigious prize which was awarded in the past to the likes of Sigmund Freud and Thomas Mann for his life's work. In 2007, he was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award of Letters. In 2008, he received the Heinrich Heine Prize of Düsseldorf, Germany.
In his works Amos Oz tends to present protagonists in a realistic light with a light ironic touch. His treatment of the subject of the kibbutz in his writings is accompanied by a somewhat critical tone. Oz credits a 1959 translation of American writer Sherwood Anderson’s "Winesburg, Ohio" with his decision to “write about what was around me.” "In A Tale of Love and Darkness", his memoir of coming of age in the midst of Israel’s violent birth pangs, Oz credits Anderson’s “modest book” with his own realization that "the written world … always revolves around the hand that is writing, wherever it happens to be writing: where you are is the center of the universe." In his 2004 essay "How to Cure a Fanatic" (later the title essay of a 2006 collection), Oz argues that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a war of religion or cultures or traditions, but rather a real estate dispute--one that will be resolved not by greater understanding, but by painful compromise.
He opposed settlement activity from the very first and was among the first to praise the Oslo Accords and talks with the PLO. In his speeches and essays he frequently attacks the non-Zionist left, to the point of self-abnegation as he says, and always emphasizes his Zionist identity. He is identified by many right-wing observers as the most eloquent spokesperson of the Zionist left. The following two quotes may help encapsulate his views:
Two Palestinian-Israeli wars have erupted in this region. One is the Palestinian nation's war for its freedom from occupation and for its right to independent statehood. Any decent person ought to support this cause. The second war is waged by fanatical Islam, from Iran to Gaza and from Lebanon to Ramallah, to destroy Israel and drive the Jews out of their land. Any decent person ought to abhor this cause." (April 7, 2002)
(Unofficial translation from Hebrew) Our biggest problem is the disappearance of social solidarity. A gross egotism is developing here, that isn't even ashamed of itself. Twenty years ago a girl from Bet Shean said on television "I'm hungry", and the doorposts shook (Isaiah 6:4). Yes, partly it was just lip service, but at least there was lip service. Today, even if she died of hunger on a live broadcast, nothing would happen, apart from high ratings and copywriters using the incident for their purposes. Anyone who once naively thought that the engine of the entrepreneurs and the rich would pull behind it a long train in which the rear cars would also go forward, was mistaken. That didn't happen. The engines are moving, and the rear cars are left behind on the rusting tracks. (September 6, 2002)
For many years Oz was identified with the Israeli Labor Party and was close to its leader Shimon Peres. When Shimon Peres was retiring from the leadership of the party, he is said to have named Oz as one of three possible successors, along with Ehud Barak (later Prime Minister) and Shlomo Ben-Ami (later Barak's foreign minister). In the 90s Oz withdrew his support from Labor and went left to Meretz, where he had good, close connections with the leader, Shulamit Aloni. In recent years he described the Labor Party as a party that "in my view almost doesn't exist any more". In the elections to the sixteenth Knesset that took place in 2003, Oz appeared in the Meretz television campaign, calling upon the public to vote for Meretz.
In July 2006, Oz supported the Israeli army in its war with Lebanon, writing in the Los Angeles Times "Many times in the past, the Israeli peace movement has criticized Israeli military operations. Not this time. This time, the battle is not over Israeli expansion and colonization. There is no Lebanese territory occupied by Israel. There are no territorial claims from either side… The Israeli peace movement should support Israel's attempt at self-defense, pure and simple, as long as this operation targets mostly Hezbollah and spares, as much as possible, the lives of Lebanese civilians
Like fellow Israeli novelists David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua , Amos Oz changed his position (of unequivocal support for a military act of self-defense at the outbreak of the war) in the face of the cabinet's decision at a later stage to expand operations in Lebanon. Grossman put their shared view into words at a press conference as he argued that Israel already exhausted its self-defense right.