There’s a sad irony in the title of this linked collection of short stories set on a kibbutz in the 1950s. For the outsider and the eccentric, the closeness of the kibbutz society ‘offers no remedies for loneliness’. Zvi, a friendless bachelor, thrives on reports of death and disaster, as if bad news makes his own life more bearable. His isolation is experienced by characters in many of the stories. Moshe, a teenage boy sent to the kibbutz when his family breaks up, continues to visit his ill father. The kibbutz elders’ insistence that he forget about his family – ‘you’re almost one of us now’ – makes him feel he can never belong. In the stern ideology of the kibbutz, the past, so tainted by the Holocaust, has to be left behind or denied.
Pioneers of the movement talked about ‘free love’, but within this small kibbutz, Oz shows bullying, sexism and double standards. Members of the education committee think of reprimanding a female teacher who sleeps around but allow a 50-year-old male teacher to take one of his ex-students, a 17-year-old girl, as