Page 105 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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FURSTENBERG / AHARON APPELFELD AND HOLOCAUST LITERATURE
97
ately after the war, the latent violence o f the period as well as the
interdependence o f the members o f the group. Although the war
is over and one would expect celebration now that there are no
more dangers, it comes slowly. In Appelfeld’s stories which
portray survivors later adjusted to lives in Israel, he shows how
their suppressed memories become the seeds of their eventual
disintegration. Initially though, they continue living after the war
on the survival level, stealing for food and booty and sometimes
even killing, although this is no longer necessary. Slowly, they
emerge from this animal existence, from the dulled amoral,
survival-bound lives, the cruel patterns o f reliance that have de­
veloped during the war. Groups split, people abandon each other
or conversely, they form connections they cannot shake off.
Appelfeld portrays in unheroic, monochromatic tones, the many
variations, the fine distinctions o f behavior under the circum­
stances. In the story “First F loor” he po rtrays the cruel,
claustrophobic relationship between nephews and a crippled un ­
cle who saved them in the concentration camp. His continued
domination and exploitation of the boys, sending them out to
steal in o rder to support him ends with their leaving him to what
is probably starvation and death.
Conversely, “Berta” is a moving story o f the inability to break
connections. In an escape from a camp a man was given a child
whom he carries through Europe and eventually, to the land of
Israel. Stunted, retarded at the stage she comes to Israel she is
dependent on him, on his periodic visits. Although he would like
to go on and live a normal life, make other connections and
marry, he cannot disengage himself from her. She is literally and
metaphorically the baggage he brought with him from the war.
She becomes his source of identification, his reality. And when,
realizing he wants to leave her she begins to die, his own sense of
identity crumbles. Her existence, the “baggage” o f the Holocaust
has become his reality.
On the o th e r hand , in “Bartofus, the Immortal,” one o f
Appelfeld’s latest novelettes and more complex characteri­
zations, one sees how the connection made after the war on the
shores o f Italy becomes hateful, the object of a destructive fury
that racks Bartofus.