Appelfeld in Bloom

Blooms  of  Darkness
by  Aharon  Appelfeld 
Schocken,  288 pp.,  $25.95

Great writers often repeat themselves, and Israeli author Aharon Appelfeld is no exception. A child survivor of the Holocaust, he has published more than thirty books—among them novels, short story collections, and a memoir—through which he explores the traumas of his past, sometimes directly, often less so.

Appelfeld was eight years old when the Germans invaded Romania, killing his mother and deporting him and his father to a Ukrainian labor camp. When the two were separated, the young boy escaped the camp. For two years, he wandered the forests, subsisting on wild fruit and berries. During winter, he passed himself off as a Ukrainian orphan in order to find work in exchange for meager shelter and food. For a time he worked as a servant for a temperamental prostitute; later, he joined the Soviet army, assisting in the military kitchen. After the war, he traveled to Italy with other survivors, and from there to Palestine, where he arrived, alone and uneducated, at the age of 14.

Appelfeld’s work draws heavily on his childhood experiences. Although he writes in Hebrew, his works are all set in Europe, before or during the war. Always, the language is bare, even plain; observations and ideas are communicated in a simple, childlike voice. In Blooms of Darkness, the protagonist Hugo lives in an unidentified ghetto with his mother (his father has been taken away). From his apartment window, he watches the deportations, and observes desperate Jews grope in the dark as they try to make sense of what is happening around them and search for some means of escape. In these harsh surroundings, the boy has “learned not to ask” but “to listen instead to the silence between the words.”

This article is locked

Subscribe now for immediate and unlimited access to Web + Print + App + Archive
  • Already a subscriber? Log in to continue reading.
  • Not quite ready to subscribe? Register now for your choice of 3 FREE articles per quarter.
  • Already a registered user? Log in here.

About the Author

Shoshana Olidort is a freelance writer and researcher whose reviews have appeared in The Forward and Ha’aretz.


No comments yet.

Want to post a comment? Please register or log in.

Most Read

What Jesus Wasn’t: Zealot

When Fox News' Lauren Green asked Reza. . .

Conservative Judaism: A Requiem

In 1971, 41 percent of American Jews. . .

Editors' Picks

Playing the Fool

Of the many varieties of anti-Semitism,. . .

Nation and Narrative

The sons of Israel, from the kibbutz to. . .

The Hands of Others

Many people know of Mufti al-Husseini's. . .

In The Next JRB

  • Uri Bar-Joseph on Guy Laron’s The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East
  • Jon D. Levenson’s reconsideration of Allan Bloom and the “Great Books” idea on the 30th anniversary of The Closing of the American Mind
  • Ruby Namdar on an ambitious new translation of S.Y. Agnon
  • And more...
Copyright © 2017 Jewish Review of Books. All Rights Reserved. | Site by W&B