...the Israeli master has delivered one of the boldest of all his works ... Oz always evokes the gloomy, storm-lashed city with a Gothic storyteller’s relish ... Oz’s extraordinary invention — a dead provocateur whose unsettling legacy haunts the eerie house on Rabbi Elbaz Lane — frames a series of mind-stretching, and heart-tugging, dialogues ... Nicholas de Lange, Oz’s distinguished translator, steers these virtuoso transitions between debate and domesticity with unerring skill.
...a very absorbing addition to his remarkable oeuvre ... Oz is more interested in the political and religious questions that surround them than he is in nuanced characterisation ... Oz presents the clash of idealisms in such a way as to allow Israel’s recent past to reverberate in the present, while at the same time connecting them to the much more ancient Judas story that fascinates Shmuel. It’s a complex and impressive achievement.
The book’s prose is meticulous, almost pre-modern. This and the plot’s stillness — days pile up, but many of the novel’s 'events' are Shmuel’s realizations — make reading Judas feel a bit like reading Thomas Bernhard without the misanthropy ... Wald’s monologues are enchanting, part of what makes Judas a successful novel of ideas. Oz doesn’t overdo it, though. By folding Shmuel’s thoughts into the text’s narrative fabric, he allows them to double as the character’s ideas and the novel’s own ... Oz pitches the book’s heartbreak and humanism perfectly from first page to last, as befits a writer who understands how vital a political role a novelist can play.
The Israeli writer Amos Oz has said about his work that he is 'normally' in 'partial disagreement' with himself. At times Judas, an erudite defense of the apostle whose name has become a synonym for traitor, a polemic about the fate of Israel, and a tender coming-of-age story seems weighed down with this idea ... But Oz makes his shy hero more than a mouthpiece in a novel of ideas. He is a character capable of change ... wise, brooding, and sometimes contrarian book.
Mr. Oz has generous sympathy for the overmatched dreamers, yet Judas sets down no fixed answers. Aided by Nicholas de Lange’s lucid translation from the Hebrew, it challenges you to think afresh about stories and histories whose interpretations can seem chiseled in stone. It is a novel that prompts questions and self-questioning. What else can one ask from a book?
Plotless novels about lost young men represent a tedious subgenre of contemporary literature, but, naturally, Oz rises above that by rendering his hapless hero so comically sympathetic ... depends entirely on the complexity of Oz’s themes and the tender elegance of his style ... Although a certain degree of familiarity with mid-20th-century political history is helpful, Oz gracefully weaves that exposition into this novel of ideas. And although the story certainly involves arguments about the Israeli-Arab conflict that Oz has made in his nonfiction work, it never reads like an allegory of the author’s political views.
...[a] captivating novel ... Oz has a formidable rhetorical talent that doesn’t always work in his favor. He is in danger of giving the impression that his novels are an excuse for delivering eloquent speeches about big ideas. Luckily, his novel is not just about abstractions. For one thing, the contentious life of Jerusalem—divided between Israel and Jordan—has a major part in the novel, and to great effect ... At the end of the novel, so beautifully translated by Nicholas de Lange, Ash wonders: Where to? What next? But we are left instead with that silent question of Abravanel’s—perhaps of the novel’s: Was it worth it?
Judas is a vibrant specimen of a nearly extinct species, the novel of ideas. As long as they have functioning brains and tongues, Oz is not especially interested in providing his characters with flesh and blood. And the novel’s plot, such as it is, is largely advanced through conversations ... Oz does not canonize Shealtiel, his prickly fictional creation. Judas is a novel, not a polemic, and he presents Wald, a patriot who lived with Shealtiel in bitter silence, as a powerful antagonist ... a fascinating coming-of-age story in which young Shmuel learns that society turns its black sheep into scapegoats.
Here’s the reason to like and value this latest novel by Israel’s pre-eminent novelist, regardless of faith or no faith. As he has for decades, Oz, ever the sharp, critical thinker, takes complex issues that many writers avoid and plunges right in ... Judas grapples with big, historical matters for which there are no simple answers: the founding of Israel and the founding of Christianity. Both remain rich subjects to explore today.