AHARON APPELFELD NOVELS: “THE AGE OF WONDERS”October 23, 2006 at 1:31 pm | Posted in Books, History, Israel, Judaica, Literary, Middle East, Zionism | Leave a comment
Aharon Appelfeld (1932- )
Aharon Appelfeld was born in Czernowitz, Rumania, and deported to a concentration camp at the age of eight. He escaped and spent three years hiding in the Ukraine before joining the Russian army. A post-war refugee, he made his way to Italy and immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1946. He currently resides in Jerusalem.
Appelfeld, a Hebrew University graduate, is now a professor of Hebrew Literature at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He began publishing poetry in 1959. He writes novels, short stories and essays and his work has been translated to a number of languages.
Appelfeld’s work is recognized worldwide as among the most profound literary explorations of the Holocaust, and has met with international critical and popular acclaim. Appelfeld has received the israel Prize.
Mr. Appelfeld writes of life before and after the Holocaust had swept through Austria. “The Age Of Wonders”, is the second of his works that appeared in this country following his first, “Badenheim 1939″. This work like
many that have followed appear to contain elements of Mr. Appelfeld’s own remarkable story of survival, when he managed to survive as an 8 year old child his deportation to the labor camp in Transnistria.
The conflict is again explored amongst Jews prior to the war as to those Jews who were, “petit bourgeoisie”, non-practicing, “intellectuals”, and even a close
friend that takes the dramatic step of circumcision as a man well into the middle of his years. The Father of the boy who’s story we read is a writer of some renown that believes his Austrian Birth, education, and books published in German separate him from the other Jews he has so much contempt for. His friend that embarks on the mentioned operation is at once both ridiculed by the Father, and then is the object of a frantic effort to prevent him from allowing this act of, “disfigurement”, to his person.
The primary Family all have their own issues with their religion, or what it,
“should be”. The Family deals not only with friends that choose their own way,
but even the boys Aunt who he lives with as a child, eventually dies within the walls of a Catholic Monastery.
As he has in his other books the actual Holocaust itself is not written of. There is a single event when they are locked in a Synagogue, are packed onto a train, and then it is 30 years later and the protagonist is now a middle-aged man. Like the Author he has immigrated to Israel but comes home for reasons of his own. This final part of the work is fascinating as the Author brings the man home and it feels as though what he sees and does is real, and also that it may not be happening at all. The last comment is too extreme, for it does happen, it is just that the Author seems to give a transparency, to place a haze between his character and those he encounters, either from his life as a boy, or strangers who have inherited old ideas.
I have read many of Mr. Appelfeld’s works and have found them to be some of the best literature on both the pre and post Holocaust experience. His survival was remarkable, it is little less than astonishing that he can not only write of this terrible era in History, but he can share it with all who are interested.
In 1940, after his mother was killed by invading Nazis during the Holocaust, Aharon Appelfeld and his father were forced into a ghetto and later deported to a concentration camp. After his father’s death, he escaped and hid in Ukraine for three years before joining the Soviet Army.
Appelfeld is one of the foremost living Hebrew-language authors, even though he did not learn the language until he was a teenager, his mother tongue being German. Despite living in Israel he writes little about life there, instead concentrating most of his writing on Jewish life in Europe before and during World War II. He has received critical and popular acclaim for his novels and poetry and has been awarded the Israel Prize. Among his better-known novels are Badenheim 1939 (ISBN 0-87923-799-6) and The Immortal Bartfuss (ISBN 0-8021-3358-4) which won the National Jewish Book Award for fiction in 1989. Appelfeld’s autobiography, The Story of a Life: A Memoir (2003, ISBN 0-8052-4178-7), won France‘s Prix Médicis.
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