Page 103 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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FURSTENBERG / AHARON APPELFELD AND HOLOCAUST LITERATURE
95
— Appelfeld can be better understood in the context o f Israeli
writers o f his generation than in the context o f Israeli Holocaust
writing.
Appelfeld’s abstract, existentialist fiction shares many of the
characteristics of the generation of writers who came into their
own after the State was established. This group of fiction writers
called
Dor Ha-Medinah
(the Generation o f the State) includes
Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua who started writing in the late fif­
ties and early sixties. Reacting to the realism of the Palmach
generation, and influenced by European writers like Albert
Camus, on the one hand, or European-born Israeli writer S.Y.
Agnon, on the other, they wrote symbolic, even allegorical tales
investigating the inner states of man in the threatened landscape
o f Israel, much as Appelfeld does in relation to the Holocaust. In
the face of extreme circumstances, the imminence of death,
Appelfeld callibrates the finely tuned internal states of man,
while Oz reveals the violent underside o f the country and
Yehoshua’s characters move trance-like in a state of attenuated
catastrophe. These writers evoke the underlying terror and ab­
surdity of a world where things fall apart and the center does not
hold. Idealism pales and man cannot affect the large events of
life. This unheroic vision of man shared by all the writers of this
school finds its epitome in the Holocaust whose goal it was to di­
minish and dehumanize. In Appelfeld’s work modernist Israeli
writing and the Holocaust come together. His heroes are often
Jews whose freedom has been reduced to simple animal survival,
whose vitality is shrunken by dislocation if not by terrible suffer­
ing. These dim inished people might express some vitality
through smuggling and illegal activities, vestiges of Holocaust
necessity, but we do not feel they have the freedom to project
hope , optim ism . A pp e lfe ld ’s heroes , as those o f Oz and
Yehoshua, are often alienated and alone. There is consequently
an anti-establishment quality to their work. This is less evident in
Appelfeld than in Oz and Yehoshua because of his Jewish loyalty.
Although he affirms his Jewishness in face of the Holocaust, he
nevertheless has little patience with Jewish officials and institu­
tional frameworks. He is as cynical about them as Yehoshua is
alienated from JNF efforts in his story, “Facing the Forests” and
Oz o f kibbutz management in his early story, “The Hollow
Stone.”