APPELFELD, AHARON (1932– ), Hebrew writer. Appelfeld was born in the province of Bukovina, Romania, to a semi-assimilated Jewish family. In 1941, Germans, accompanied by Romanians, began the destruction of the Jews of Bukovina, killing Appelfeld's mother and grandmother and deporting Appelfeld to a concentration camp. He escaped and roamed through the Ukrainian countryside for years. In 1944, the Russian Army entered the Ukraine and Appelfeld joined them as a kitchen helper, immigrating to Israel after the war. A graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Appelfeld served as professor emeritus of Hebrew literature at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. While best known as a prolific novelist, his essays have been published in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and elsewhere. At the core of Appelfeld's highly-stylized narratives is the probing of the psyche of characters in a pre- and post-Shoah world. His tales frequently depict fragmented, torn, and sometimes mute people in a state of quest. In his earlier tales, Appelfeld consciously suspended any historical framework, raising his work to a mythic, timeless level while only depicting the Shoah directly in his later works. Throughout, Appelfeld is fascinated by the notion of the Jewish tribe and its various manifestations – Orthodox and converted and particularly the assimilated Jews of Central Europe. Appelfeld's fiction frequently has an autobiographical tone. In Tzili (1983), he tells the story of a young girl who like himself spends years in the forest separated from her family while fleeing the enemy. Eventually, like Appelfeld, she joins the hordes of refugees in their journey towards safety. Appelfeld's characters are constantly on the move. Movement is the essence of their being. They are rootless and in a constant quest to repair and to heal. In doing so, Appelfeld has expanded the archetype of the Wandering Jew to include the post-Shoah world of the European wasteland. However, movement does not bring change, instead the Jew continues as an "Other," a stranger hovering like a shadow over an extinct reality. Europe in the post-Shoah period, as Appelfeld has said, is the largest cemetery in history. Appelfeld's work can roughly be divided into three periods. In the 1960s, he published surreal short fiction with strong fantastic elements. This fiction consists of five books of short stories. Appelfeld made his mark in his second period with the novels Badenheim 1939 (1980) and Tor ha-Pela'ot ("Age of Wonders," 1978). In his third period, the novels of the 1990s and the first years of the new century, the actual Shoah is incorporated into his fiction. While Appelfeld's narratives are often a fictional recasting of his own autobiography, the importance of the narrator as a chronicler and witness of events gains importance in his later work. His earlier protagonists were often devoid of   memory and consequently of historical awareness. In his latest works, a sense of history, continuity, and self-awareness is more apparent. This is clear in the novels Katerina (1989) and Ad Alot ha-Shaḥar (1995). Until his third period, Appelfeld's stories were geographically situated far from the war and the camps. We encounter the camp for the first time overtly in The Iron Tracks, a modern picaresque parable, where Irwin Ziegelbaum (Irwin is Appelfeld's given name) recounts in the 1980s his 40 years of wandering in post-Shoah Europe. A survivor, he continues to move in trains, from south to north and back. Haunted by memories, he nevertheless visits all the stations of his life and those of his parents. He maintains a yearly cycle, like the reading of the Torah in weekly portions, consisting of 22 stations parallel to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. On his way, he redeems various Jewish holy artifacts and fulfills a personal quest by killing the German officer who murdered his parents. In a way Appelfeld transcends the historical limitations of the Holocaust. In a 1986 interview, he said: "I write Jewish stories, but I don't accept the label Holocaust writer. My themes are the uprooted, orphans, the war." An heir to kafka , celan , proust , and buber , Appelfeld's voice is at once immediate and removed, historical and transcendent, realistic and postmodern, but always essential. Appelfeld was awarded the Israel Prize in 1983. Many of his works have been translated into English, including To the Land of the Reeds (1986), Badenheim 1939 (1980), Beyond Despair (1993), The Immortal Bartfuss (1988), For Every Sin (1989), Katerina (1992), The Retreat (1984), Age of Wonders (1981), The Healer (1990), The Iron Tracks (1998), Tzili (1983), Unto the Soul (1994), Lost (1998), A Table for One (with drawings by Meir Appelfeld, 2004). Stories and novellas are included in the following English-language anthologies: G. Ramras-Rauch and J. Michman-Melkman (eds.), Facing the Holocaust (1985), G. Abramson (ed.), The Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories (1996), I. Stavans (ed.), The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories (1998), L. Raphael and M.L. Raphael (eds.), When Night Fell: An Anthology of Holocaust Short Stories (1999), G. Shaked (ed.), Six Israeli Novellas (1999). Mention should be made also of the following English books: E. Sicher, Holocaust Novelists (2004), M. Brown and S. Horowitz, Encounter with Aharon Appelfeld (2003), and Philip Roth, Shop Talk: A Writer and His Colleagues and Their Work (2001). For detailed information concerning translations into various languages see the ITHL website at -BIBLIOGRAPHY: G. Ramras-Rauch, Aharon Appelfeld: The Holocaust and Beyond (1994); Y. Schwartz, Aharon Appelfeld: From Individual Lament to Tribal Eternity (Heb., 1996; Eng., 2001); R. Furstenberg, "A. Appelfeld and Holocaust Literature," in: Jewish Book Annual, 42 (1984), 91–106; M. Wohlgelernter, "A. Appelfeld: Between Oblivion and Awakening," in: Tradition, 35:3 (2001), 6–19; R. Wisse, "A. Appelfeld: Survivor," in: Commentary, 76:2 (1983), 73–76; S. DeKoven Ezrahi, "A. Appelfeld: The Search for a Language," in: Studies in Contemporary Jewry, 1 (1984), 366–80; G. Shaked, "Appelfeld and His Times," in: Hebrew Studies, 36 (1995), 87–100; S. Nash, "Critical Reappraisals of A. Appelfeld," in: Prooftexts, 22:3 (2002), 334–54; M.A. Bernstein, "Foregone Conclusions: Narrating the Fate of Austro-German Jewry," in: Modernism / Modernity, 1:1 (1994), 57–79; L. Yudkin, "Is A. Appelfeld a Holocaust Writer?" in: The Holocaust and the Text (2000), 142–58; E. Miller Budick, "Literature, Ideology and the Measure of Moral Freedom: The Case of A. Appelfeld's 'Badenheim,' " in: Modern Language Quarterly, 60:2 (1999), 223–49. (Gila Ramras-Rauch (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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