Page 107 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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FURSTENBERG / AHARON APPELFELD AND HOLOCAUST LITERATURE
99
Appelfeld views the domestic family aspect o f civilization more
positively than the male business, government side.
In some ways
Tzili
echoes an earlier story of Appelfeld’s called
“Kitty.”This story portrays the emerging puberty of a girl hidden
in the basement of a convent during the war. But the process of
puberty which should lead to adulthood, to sex and marriage and
family is cut off by the Nazis. The nuns, too, it is implied, their
own physical lives stunted cannot bear to see this flower come to
fruition. In
Tzili
we see another version of emergence into adult­
hood u n d e r the shadow o f the H o locaust. In line with
Appelfeld’s technique this story is also heavy with silence, but in
contrast to the silence of anger and alienation in “Bartofus” and
that of terro r and presentiment of danger in
The Age o f Wonders,
which will be discussed later, Tzili radiates the silence of someone
confronted with the elemental, the harsh unadorned experience
of life, and the acceptance of it. She has been perceived by some
as the Shekhina, the female side o f God who accompanies the
Jewish people in their exile.10 She radiates at once profound in­
nocence and the primal impulse for survival.
TZILFS LIFE JOURNEY
Tzili, dismissed by her parents as a simpleton, has few human
accoutrements to begin with. Coming from a large, poor Jewish
family in an eastern European village, she disappoints her par­
ents with her dullness in school and is relegated to the yard,
thrown there with other objects. An innocent with little memory
o f loss or regret, Tzili is a brilliant agent, a
tabula rasa
for record­
ing this primal world to which man is returned as a consequence
of the Nazi evil.
A simple, suffering animal who expects little of the world, she
learns not to draw attention to herself and this stands her in good
stead. When the Nazis come to her village and her family flees
leaving her to “watch the possessions,” she is not discerned hiding
among the barrels and sacks in the yard. And when the plun­
dering is finished and there are no more possessions to watch she
steals out to begin her animal search for food. In the winter she
finds shelter doing chores for farmers who beat her and treat her
like a beast of burden. When a blind man mistakes her for one of
10 Ron H. Feldman, “Remembering the Holocaust,”
San Francisco Chronicle,
April 10, 1983.