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The youngest, least-favored member of an Eastern European Jewish family, Tzili is considered an embarrassment by her parents and older siblings. Her schooling has been a failure, she is simple and meek, and she seems more at home with the animals in the field than with people. And so when her panic-stricken family flees the encroaching Nazi armies, Tzili is left behind to fend for herself. At first seeking refuge with the local peasants, she is eventually forced to escape from them as well, and she takes to the forest, living a solitary existence until she is discovered by another Jewish refugee, a man who is as alone in the world as she is. As she matures into womanhood, they fall in love. And though their time together is tragically brief, their love for each other imbues Tzili with the strength to survive the war and begin a new life, together with other survivors, in Palestine. Aharon Appelfeld imbues Tzili’s story with a harrowing beauty that is emblematic of the fate of an entire people.
“It is a measure of Appelfeld’s uncanny skill that a narrative so deliberately shorn of familiar human relations should bear so much power.” —Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review
“As always, Appelfeld’s style is affectingly spare. Out of the shards of [ personal] experience, he has composed a tale of appalling symmetry. Among his many novels and stories of the Holocaust, Tzili best exemplifies Kafka’s bitter aphorism, ‘The arrows fit exactly in the wounds they have made.’”—Time