Page 109 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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FURSTENBERG /AHARON APPELFELD AND HOLOCAUST LITERATURE
101
IMPENDING EVIL
The theme o f the impending evil before the war which is
stressed in the novelette
Badenheim 1939
was already introduced
in the hauntingly beautiful novel,
Ke-Ishon Ha-Ayim
(Like the Ap­
ple o f the Eye). Hei*e Appelfeld portrays, through the eyes o f a
child narrator, the disintegration o f an assimilated rural family
living under the shadow o f the approaching Holocaust. In this
impressionistic book, the increasingly ugly expression o f anti-
Semitism is depicted as an almost natural evil. The “goyim” seem
allied with the forces o f Nature. The powerlessness o f the Jews to
stop the scourge or even to attempt to affect it, delimits the form,
demands an allegorical telling rather than a free, linear, cathartic
one. The stories about this period before the war cannot come to
a resolution, for the climax is a death and dehumanization so ter­
rible that there is no catharsis. The Holocaust obliterates rather
than releases man’s impulses.
In
Badenheim 1939 ,
Appelfeld treats the disintegration on the
level o f community. He creates a strange surrealistic resort town
env ironm en t as a paradigm o f the incarceration that, it is
suggested, will follow in Poland. Jews coming to this resort town
are mysteriously confronted with greater and greater limitations
imposed by the “Sanitation Department.” Appelfeld depicts the
various responses to the increasingly circumscribed conditions in
this strange group of assimilated Jews. Their final response to the
trip to Poland is instructive:
The ir bags were big and swollen. Dr. Pappenheim was
surprised at the commotion. ‘I ’m going like this — empty-
handed. I f they want me, they’ll take me like this — empty-
handed .’
The next day was bright and cold. . . . By the old orna­
mented gate, the clerk called the roll. The people answered
to their names as at a morning parade. A long journey
stretched before them. At the familiar railway station there
stood a hissing engine with many empty carriages. No one
pushed. No one cried.
‘AGE OF WONDERS’
This type o f symbolic work, the evocation o f the evil to come,
has its largest novelistic expression in Appelfeld’s work,
The Age