Un matin, Iréna découvre ses voisins juifs alignés devant l'entrée de leur magasin. Un gendarme les tient en joue : ordre des Allemands. Le lendemain, ils sont agenouillés, brutalisés, avant d'être assassinés. Leur magasin est pillé. Dans ce village ukrainien, la catastrophe est en marche, et elle provoque chez la jeune paysanne un sursaut. L'effroi de ne pas avoir pu secourir ses voisins se double de celui que lui inspire son mari, un brute qui la maltraite. Il faut partir.Commence alors une longue errance aux accents prophétiques. De village en village, Iréna proclame que le Christ était juif, et que lever la main sur ses descendants est un crime inexpiable. Menacée par les hommes et protégée par les femmes – paysannes, aubergistes ou prostituées –, Iréna accomplira son destin jusqu'au bout.« L'Histoire est un cauchemar dont je cherche à m'éveiller », a écrit James Joyce. Dans ce dernier roman publié de son vivant, Aharon Appelfeld relève le défi : La Stupeur plonge ses racines dans ce qu'il y a de plus archaïque en l'homme – la soif de détruire et le besoin de réparer.Traduit de l'hébreu par Valérie Zenatti
Prix Les Inrockuptibles Roman étranger 2020
C'est l'été 1938 en Europe centrale. Et comme chaque année ils sont là, sur la rive, en villégiature.
Il y a Rosa Klein, qui lit dans les lignes de la main. Mais peut-on se fier à ses prédictions ? Et Karl Koenig, l'écrivain. Pourquoi fréquente-t-il les autres vacanciers au lieu de consacrer toute son énergie au roman qu'il est en train d'écrire ? Qui sont vraiment " l'homme à la jambe coupée " et la jeune femme amoureuse que tous les Juifs appellent par l'initiale de son prénom ? Et le père et la mère d'Erwin, l'enfant si sensible à l'anxiété de ceux qui l'entourent ?
Dans ce roman magistral publié quelques années avant sa mort, Aharon Appelfeld tisse les questions intimes, littéraires et métaphysiques qui l'ont accompagné toute sa vie. Sous sa plume, ces dernières vacances avant la guerre sont le moment où l'humanité se dévoile dans ses nuances les plus infimes, à l'approche de la catastrophe que tous redoutent sans parvenir à l'envisager.
Traduit de l'hébreu par Valérie Zenatti.
« Nous devons faire passer l'expérience atroce de la catégorie de l'histoire à celle de l'art », écrit Aharon Appelfeld à propos des nombreux témoignages suscités par la Shoah. Sans négliger la valeur historique de ces témoignages, il nous rappelle que « seul l'art a le pouvoir de sortir la souffrance de l'abîme. » Car la vérité propre à l'oeuvre est indissociable d'une expérience subjective.
L'Héritage nu (Au-delà du désespoir), qui rassemble trois conférences prononcées à l'université Columbia, a fait
l'objet d'une première édition dans une traduction de l'anglais effectuée par Michel Gribinski (L'Olivier, 2006). La présente édition propose une version révisée par Valérie Zenatti à partir du manuscrit original en hébreu dont une partie a été retrouvée. Elle est par ailleurs augmentée d'une postface inédite de Frédéric Worms, qui met en perspective les enjeux philosophiques et littéraires de ces conférences avec l'ensemble de l'oeuvre d'Aharon Appelfeld.
Avec Histoire d'une vie, Aharon Appelfeld nous livre quelques-unes des clés qui permettent d'accéder à son oeuvre : réminiscences de la petite enfance à Czernowitz, en Bucovine. Portraits de ses parents, des Juifs assimilés, et de ses grands-parents, un couple de paysans dont la spiritualité simple le marque à jamais. Il y a aussi ces scènes brèves, visions arrachées au cauchemar de l'extermination. Puis les années d'errance, l'arrivée en terre d'Israël, et le début de ce qui soutiendra désormais son travail : le silence, la contemplation, l'invention d'une langue approchant au plus près l'énigme d'une vie, les méandres de la mémoire, et le sens que l'art peut leur donner.
Traduit de l'hébreu et révisé pour la présente édition par Valérie Zenatti
Prix Médicis étranger 2004
Traduit de l'hébreu par Valérie Zenatti
Theo Kornfeld a vingt ans lorsqu'il quitte le camp de concentration que ses gardiens viennent d'abandonner à l'approche des Russes. Il n'a qu'un seul but : retrouver la maison familiale. Errant sur les chemins, blessés au plus profond d'eux-mêmes, les déportés qu'il croise lui rappellent l'horreur à laquelle il a survécu, tandis que d'autres figures émergent de son passé. Celle de sa mère, Yetti, une femme à la beauté exceptionnelle, au caractère fantasque, qui aimait les églises, les monastères et l'œuvre de Bach. Celle de Martin, un père trop discret que Theo va apprendre à mieux connaître.
Des jours d'une stupéfiante clarté raconte son voyage à travers les paysages d'Europe centrale baignés de lumière. Chaque rencontre suscite en lui d'innombrables questions. Comment vivre après la catastrophe ? Comment concilier passé et présent, solitude et solidarité ? Comment retrouver sa part d'humanité ?
Par-delà le fracas de l'Histoire, ce livre admirable est le récit d'une résurrection.
Traduit de l'hébreu par Valérie Zenatti.
Pendant les derniers mois de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, des partisans juifs repliés dans une forêt d'Ukraine résistent à l'armée allemande qui les traque. Sous le commandement de leur chef, Kamil, ce groupe composé d'hommes, de femmes et d'enfants s'organise pour lutter contre le froid et le dénuement extrême, et harceler l'ennemi jusqu'au bout. Leur but : survivre, faire dérailler les trains, sauver des Juifs et atteindre " la cime" – lieu à la fois géographique et spirituel de leur accomplissement.
Dans ce roman où action et méditation ne cessent de se répondre, Aharon Appelfeld interroge l'Histoire avec une énergie, une subtilité et un sens de la dramaturgie remarquables.
**WINNER OF THE 2012 INDEPENDENT FOREIGN FICTION PRIZE**
A new novel from the award-winning, internationally acclaimed Israeli writer (“One of the greatest writers of the age”--The Guardian), a haunting, heartbreaking story of love and loss.
The ghetto in which the Jews have been confined is being liquidated by the Nazis, and eleven-year-old Hugo is brought by his mother to the local brothel, where one of the prostitutes has agreed to hide him. Mariana is a bitterly unhappy woman who hates what she has done to her life, and night after night Hugo sits in her closet and listens uncomprehendingly as she rages at the Nazi soldiers who come and go. When she’s not mired in self-loathing, Mariana is fiercely protective of the bewildered, painfully polite young boy. And Hugo becomes protective of Mariana, too, trying to make her laugh when she is depressed, soothing her physical and mental agony with cold compresses. As the memories of his family and friends grow dim, Hugo falls in love with Mariana. And as her life spirals downward, Mariana reaches out for consolation to the adoring boy who is on the cusp of manhood.
The arrival of the Russian army sends the prostitutes fleeing. But Mariana is too well known, and she is arrested as a Nazi collaborator for having slept with the Germans. As the novel moves toward its heartrending conclusion, Aharon Appelfeld once again crafts out of the depths of unfathomable tragedy a renewal of life and a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.
From the Hardcover edition.
***NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD WINNER (2012)***
From the award-winning, internationally acclaimed writer (“One of the best novelists alive” --Irving Howe): a Jewish woman marries a gentile laborer in turn-of-the-century Austria, with disastrous results.
A high school honor student bound for university and a career as a mathematician, Blanca lives with her parents in a small town in Austria in the early years of the twentieth century. At school one day she meets Adolf, who comes from a family of peasant laborers. Tall and sturdy, plainspoken and uncomplicated, Adolf is unlike anyone Blanca has ever met. And Adolf is awestruck by beautiful, brilliant Blanca–even though she is Jewish. When Blanca is asked by school administrators to tutor Adolf, the inevitable happens: they fall in love. And when Adolf asks her to marry him, Blanca abandons her plans to attend university, converts to Christianity, and leaves her family, her friends, and her old life behind.
Almost immediately, things begin to go horribly wrong. Told in a series of flashbacks as Blanca and her son flee from their town with the police in hot pursuit, the tragic story of Blanca’s life with Adolf recalls a time and place that are no more but that powerfully reverberate in collective memory.
From the Hardcover edition.
Fleeing an abusive home, Katerina, a teenage peasant in Ukraine in the 1880s, is taken in by a Jewish family and becomes their housekeeper. Feeling the warmth of family life for the first time and incorporating the family's customs and rituals into her own Christian observances, Katerina is traumatized when the parents are murdered in separate pogroms and the children are taken away by relatives. She finds work with other Jewish families, all of whom are subjected to relentless persecution by their neighbors. When the beloved child she had with her Jewish lover is murdered, Katerina kills the murderer and is sent to prison. Released from prison years later, in the chaos following the end of World War II, a now elderly Katerina is devastated to find a world that has been emptied of its Jews and that is not at all sorry to see them gone. Ever the outsider, Katerina realizes that she has survived only to bear witness to the fact that these people had ever existed at all.
In spare, haunting, almost hallucinogenic prose, the internationally acclaimed, award-winning novelist shares with us-for the first time-the story of his own extraordinary survival and rebirth.
Aharon Appelfeld's childhood ended when he was seven years old. The Nazis occupied Czernowitz in 1941, penned the Jews into a ghetto, and, a few months later, sent whoever had not been shot or starved to death on a forced march across the Ukraine to a labor camp. As men, women, and children fall away around them, Aharon and his father (his mother was killed in the early days of the occupation) miraculously survive, and Aharon, even more miraculously, escapes from the camp shortly after he arrives there.
The next few years of Aharon's life are both harrowing and heartrending: he hides, alone, in the Ukrainian forests from peasants who are only too happy to turn Jewish children over to the Nazis; he has the presence of mind to pass himself off as an orphaned gentile when he emerges from the forest to seek work; and, at war's end, he joins the stream of refugees as they cross Europe on their way to displaced persons' camps that have been set up for the survivors. He observes the full range of personalities in the camps-exploitation exists side by side with compassion-until he manages to get on a ship bound for Palestine. Once there, Aharon attempts to build a new life while struggling to retain the barely remembered fragments of his old life (everyone urges him simply to forget what he had experienced), and he takes his first, tentative steps as a writer. As he begins to receive national attention, Aharon realizes his life's calling: to bear witness to the unfathomable. In this unforgettable work of memory, Aharon Appelfeld offers personal glimpses into the experiences that resonate throughout his fiction.
From the Hardcover edition.
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.
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.
A poignant, heartbreaking new work by “one of the best novelists alive” (Irving Howe)--the story of a lonely older man and his devoted young caretaker who transform each other’s lives in ways they could never have imagined.
Ernst is a gruff seventy-year-old Red Army veteran from Ukraine who landed, almost by accident, in Israel after World War II. A retired investment adviser, he lives alone (his first wife and baby daughter were killed by the Nazis; he divorced his shrewish second wife) and spends his time laboring over his unpublished novels. Irena, in her mid-thirties, is the unmarried daughter of Holocaust survivors who has been taking care of Ernst since his surgery two years earlier; she arrives every morning promptly at eight and usually leaves every afternoon at three. Quiet and shy, Irena is in awe of Ernst’s intellect. And as the months pass, Ernst comes to depend on the gentle young woman who runs his house, listens to him read from his work, and occasionally offers a spirited commentary on it.
But Ernst’s writing gives him no satisfaction, and he is haunted by his godless, Communist past. His health, already poor, begins to deteriorate even further; he becomes mired in depression and seems to lose the will to live. But this is something Irena will not allow. As she becomes an increasingly important part of his life--moving into his home, encouraging him in his work, easing his pain--Ernst not only regains his sense of self and discovers the path through which his writing can flow but he also discovers, to his amazement, that Irena is in love with him. And, even more astonishing, he realizes that he is in love with her, too.
From the Hardcover edition.
Adam and Thomas is the story of two nine-year-old Jewish boys who survive World War II by banding together in the forest. They are alone, visited only furtively, every few days by Mina, a mercurial girl who herself has found refuge from the war by living with a peasant family. She makes secret journeys and brings the boys parcels of food at her own risk.
Adam and Thomas must learn to survive and do. They forage and build a small tree house, although it's more like a bird's nest. Adam's family dog, Miro, manages to find his way to him, to the joy of both boys. Miro brings the warmth of home with him. Echoes of the war are felt in the forest. The boys meet fugitives fleeing for their lives and try to help them. They learn to disappear in moments of danger. And they barely survive winter's harshest weather, but when things seem to be at their worst, a miracle happens.
From the Hardcover edition.
In turn of the century Eastern Europe, a brother and sister have been chosen to guard an ancient cemetery of Jewish martyrs situated on an isolated mountain. The endless snows protect them from the pogroms and plagues that rage in the world below, but that same protective blanket cuts them off from their people and tradition. Escape--from loneliness, from wavering piety, and from the burgeoning desire they feel for one another--becomes impossible. @16@@16@A parable for our times, by the writer whom Irving Howe called @11@one of the best novelists alive,@11@ @18@Unto the Soul@19@ lays bare the deepest stirrings of religious feeling and despair within the human soul.
The year is 1937. On a remote hilltop some distance from Vienna stands a hotel called The Retreat. Founded by a man who is determined to cleanse himself and his guests of all @11@Jewish traits,@11@ it is a resort of assimilation, with daily activities that include lessons in how to look, talk, act--in short, how to pass--as a gentile. But with Hitler on the march, the possibilities of both assimilation and retreat are quickly fading for the hotel's patrons, men and women who are necessarily--and horrifically--blind to their fate. Mordant, shrewd, and elegantly written, @18@The Retreat@19@ is a moving story of people forbidden to retreat from themselves, by the writer whom Irving Howe called @11@one of the best novelists alive.@11@
A caravan of Jews wanders through Eastern Europe at the end of the nineteenth century on a heartbreaking quest. Spiritual seekers and the elderly, widows and orphans, the sick and the dying, con artists and adventurers, victims of pogroms who have no place else to go-they are all on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but the journey is filled with unexpected detours and unanticipated disaster.
Among them is Laish, a fifteen-year-old orphan, through whose eyes we observe the interactions within this ragtag group of dreamers, holy men, misfits, and thieves as they battle with one another, try to stay one step ahead of the gendarmes, and do what little they can to keep up their flagging spirits. With the death of the rabbi who brought the group together, they are now led by men whom Laish refers to as "the dealers"-black-market traders whose motives are questionable but who periodically infuse the group with the money they need to get to the next town.
Years pass, tempers start to fray, and the caravan grows smaller as people die or abandon the venture. A brutal winter and typhoid epidemic further decimate the ranks, and the pilgrims have begun to reach the limits of their endurance. The dream of Jerusalem keeps the remnant going, and against all odds they finally arrive-emotionally and physically exhausted-at the port city of Galacz. They see their ship in the harbor, but whether they will actually make it onto that ship is suddenly and tragically thrown into doubt.
This magnificent new novel from Aharon Appelfeld ("One of the greatest writers of the age" --The Guardian) resonates with a universality of experience: the will to survive, the struggle to hold on to hope.
Our story opens in an Austrian city, two generations before the Holocaust, where almost all of the Jews have converted to Christianity. Today the church bells are pealing for Karl, an ambitious young civil servant whose conversion will clear his path to a coveted high government post. Karl's future looks bright, but with his promotion comes a political crisis that turns his conversion into a baptism by fire, unexpectedly reuniting Karl with his past and forcing him to take a stand he could never have imagined.
How does one live after surviving injustice? What satisfaction comes from revenge? Can the past ever be left behind?
Masterfully composed and imbued with extraordinary feeling and understanding, The Iron Tracks is a riveting tale of survival and revenge by the writer whom Irving Howe called "one of the best novelists alive today."
Ever since he was released from a concentration camp forty years earlier, Erwin Siegelbaum has been obsessively riding the trains of postwar Austria. His days are filled with drink, his nights with brief love affairs and the torments of his nightmares. What keeps him sane is his mission to collect the menorahs, kiddush cups, and holy books that have survived their vanished owners. And the hope that one day he will find the Nazi officer who murdered his parents--and have the strength to kill him.
A haunting exploration of one survivor's complex, wrenching, inner world, The Iron Tracks is distinguished by the depth of insight and the distinctively stark, elegant style that have won Aharon Appelfeld recognition as one of the world's great writers.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
From the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author (“One of the greatest writers of the age”--The Guardian): a young Holocaust survivor takes his first steps toward creating a new life in the newly established state of Israel.
Erwin doesn’t remember much about his journey across Europe when the war finally ended because he spent most of it asleep, carried by other survivors as they emerged from their hiding places or were liberated from the camps and made their way to the shores of Naples,where they filled refugee camps and wondered what was to become of them. As he struggles to stay awake, Erwin becomes part of a group of boys being rigorously trained both physically and mentally by an emissary from Palestine for life in their new home. The fog of sleep slowly begins to lift, and when Erwin and his fellow clandestine immigrants are released by British authorities from the detention camp in Atlit, he and his comrades are assigned to a kibbutz, where they learn how to tend to the land and speak their new language. But a part of Erwin desperately clings to the past--to memories of his parents, to his mother tongue, to the Ukrainian city where he was born--and he knows that despite what he is being told, who he was is just as important as who he is now becoming.
When he is wounded in an engagement with snipers, Erwin must spend long months recovering from multiple surgeries and trying to regain the use of his legs. As he exercises his body, he exercises his mind as well, copying passages from the Bible in his newly acquired Hebrew and working up the courage to create his own texts in this language both old and new, hoping to succeed as a writer where his beloved, tormented father had failed. With the support of his friends and of other survivors, and with the encouragement of his mother (who visits him in his dreams), Erwin takes his first tentative steps with his crutches--and with his pen. Once again, Aharon Appelfeld mines heartrending personal experience to create dazzling, masterly fiction with a universal resonance.
From the Hardcover edition.