The haunting story of a Jewish family in Eastern Europe in the 1930s that prefigures the fate of the Jews during World War II.
At the center is nine-year-old Paul Rosenfeld, the beloved only child of divorced parents, through whose eyes we view a dissolving, increasingly chaotic world. Initially, Paul lives with his mother–a secular, assimilated schoolteacher, who he adores until she “betrays” him by marrying the gentile André. He is then sent to live with his father–once an admired avant-garde artist, but now reviled by the critics as a “decadent Jew,” who drowns his anger, pain, and humiliation in drink. Paul searches in vain for stability and meaning in a world that is collapsing around him, but his love for the earthy peasant girl who briefly takes care of him, the strange pull he feels towards the Jews praying in the synagogue near his home, and the fascination with which he observes Eastern Orthodox church rituals merely give him tantalizing glimpses into worlds of which he can never be a part.
The fates that Paul’s parents will meet with Paul as terrified witness–his mother, deserted by her new husband and dying of typhus; his father, gunned down while trying to stop the robbery of a Jewish-owned shop–and his own fate as an orphaned Jewish child alone in Europe in 1938 are rendered with extraordinary subtlety and power, as they foreshadow, in the heart-wrenching story of three individuals, the cataclysm that is about to engulf all of European Jewry.
From the Hardcover edition.
About Aharon Appelfeld
Aharon Appelfeld is the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Badenheim 1939, The Iron Tracks (winner of the National Jewish Book Award), The Story of a Life (winner of the Prix Médicis Étranger), and Until the Dawn’s Light (winner of the National Jewish Book Award). Other honors he has received include the Giovanni Boccaccio Literary Prize, the Nelly Sachs Prize, the Israel Prize, the Bialik Prize, and the MLA Commonwealth Award. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received honorary degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, and Yeshiva University. Born in Czernowitz, Bukovina (now part of Ukraine), in 1932, he lives in Israel.
Praise for Aharon Appelfeld:
“The writing flows seamlessly . . . [This is] a small masterpiece.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Tzili’s steadiness of vision and quiet acceptance of life reduced to an absolute minimum give it a sense of buoyancy the more moving for being apparently effortless.”
—The New York Review of Books
To the Land of the Cattails
“Among us, the writers-survivors, Appelfeld’s voice has a unique, unmistakeable tone . . . I am struck with awe and admiration.”
The Iron Tracks
“This tale of reparation and retaliation is art at its highest.”
—The Washington Post
“A work of subtle power, at once a historical novel and a moral parable.”
—The Boston Globe
From the Hardcover edition.