Sunday, November 8, 2015

Badenheim 1939 by Aharon Appelfeld

Think that this particular edition has now slipped out of print which is a great pity as this rightly deserves to be regarded as a classic, translated by Dalya Bilu, who also translated Appelfeld's novel The Age of Wonders, the Penguin Modern Classics edition also comes with an introduction from Gabriel Josipovici. I'd have to admit that this is my first reading of any by Appelfeld and I really enjoyed it, the prose is pitch perfect as it balances itself between meditative scenes which carry a poetic and emotional resonance. The scenario of the novel is the rounding up of the town's Jews in the local hotel prior to being deported to Poland, and then onto.. Appelfeld's prose is affecting as his characters summarise the events unfolding unbeknownst of their eventual fate, I've seen a video interview with Appelfeld where he talks of writing as recapturing the innocence of childhood, and this can be felt in the portraiture of his characters, we read their potted histories, past lives and individual foibles, of the band coming to perform at the town's music festival, and the Dr's and Professor's as they try to trump each other's reputations, and of those being caught up confoundingly in proceedings simply by mistake. At the start it has the feeling that they are about to depart for a holiday but the modus and definition of their departure begins to blur as death enters the narrative. There are many moments glimpsed in the novel which convey terror unbeknown, the eventual departure at the town's railway station, the selling of lemonade, an example of normal life's continuity, before - they were all sucked in as easily as grains of wheat poured into a funnel, an affecting read with scenes of great, yet understated potency that remain with the reader after reading.       

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