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Patrick Kurp on Aharon Appelfeld over at Anecdotal Evidence:


The Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld was born in 1932 in Romania. Eight years later the Nazis seized Czernowitz, his home town, killed his mother and deported Appelfeld and his father to a concentration camp in the Ukraine. He escaped and remained a fugitive for three years before joining the Red Army. Read some of the details the details in The Story of a Life, his emblematic chronicle of 20th-century horrors narrated by a voice as quiet and oblique as the voices in his novels. Where Piotr Rawicz, another Holocaust survivor, narrates scenes of unbearable cruelty in Blood from the Sky, Appelfeld’s aesthetic remains rooted in indirection. Even when his narrative is dry and fatual, a mist clings to his words. I can’t think of another novel in which so much is left so eloquently unsaid as Badenheim 1939.

I met Appelfeld 20 years ago at a holocaust conference I was covering as a reporter. He was soft-spoken, laconic, avuncular. I introduced myself and we talked. I no longer have my notes but I remember how disarming his affability seemed. Did this explain his aesthetic, his reliance on absence as presence? How could a boy who lived by his wits from age 8 turn into so gracious a man?

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