Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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96
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
COMMON THEMES
Many of Appelfeld’s stories share the atmosphere o f a th rea t­
ened world, o f violence about to erupt, that can be found in the
works o f Yehoshua and Oz. We see this in some o f his early sto­
ries of survivors who have internalized the patterns o f violence
and victimization of the Holocaust. We also see this in his later
work,
Mikhvot Ha-Or
(Scalding Light), where the volubility o f ad­
olescents coupled with the suppressed aggression of the war ex­
perience merge to create a tense, explosive atmosphere. Sup­
pressed violence in Israeli literature has always been attributed to
the history o f repeated wars and terrorism, but what has not
perhaps, been realized and is pointedly borne out by Appelfeld’s
works is that this is also a legacy of the Holocaust.
Appelfeld weaves the silences of this absurd, existential, threa t­
ened world into the themes and motifs that recur throughou t his
fiction; the themes of uprootedness, wandering, broken shells o f
people living life-in-death existences, the attempt to recover a
Jewish identity one never had, existence under the shadow of
death, life stripped down to the elemental, primal. All these are
motifs abstracted from the experience of the Holocaust, and
t re a te d th ro u g h o u t his fiction with “silences ,” evocation,
suggestiveness, menacing inference, but never directly. As time
goes on Appelfeld’s use of silence becomes more subtle, more in­
tegrated into his work. He moves away from the early influence
o f Agnon to develop his own entirely individual style. As other
“Generation of the State” writers his characterization becomes
more complex, his language richer, and scenes become more
chiseled and stylized. This stylization sometimes has the effect of
making the work manneristic, freezing characters, not allowing
them their freedom. But, on the whole there is great beauty, a
haunting lyricism in his writing. Gershon Shaked has pointed out
that the language which had become denser, more complex in his
volume o f stories
Kfor A l Ha-Aretz
(Frost on the Land) published
in 1965 has worked its way through to greater clarity and purity
in his last books.9
Many o f the early stories portray groups o f survivors immedi­
9 Review o f his recent book
Ha-Kutonet ve'Ha-Passim, Yediot Aharonot,
Ian. 6,
1984.