A life horribly interrupted

June 28, 2017

The Story of a Life

By Aharon Appelfeld

This book cannot be judged as typical of Holocaust literature, as the writer was just nine years old when he became a victim of this shocking piece of history.

Aharon Appelfeld’s memories are jumbled incidents and in recording them he jumps from one stage of his life to another.

It is a very disturbing but successful record.

When at last he arrived in Israel, a teenager alone, and attempted to put his life into some sort of coherent order, it was like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces irretrievably lost.

With a family history that was fragmented and a language he had to unlearn to a certain extent in order to make some sort of life in another country with another language, he felt quite torn and alien about his past history and this new country and its people, many of whom were equally as disturbed and torn as he was.

The history he writes leaps from one place to another, and some parts of it are much clearer to him than others.

He did not attempt such a history until he was about 70, and some of the detail is quite extraordinary.

For a boy of nine to escape the camps and survive alone in the forests and steppes of Ukraine was remarkable, but survive he did. Ultimately he made it to the new Israel, and eventually made a great literary career for himself.

He writes of that new Israel and the turmoil of the people in it, again jumping from fragment to fragment.

The reader gets more than a glimpse of what it would have been like in a country where almost everybody was a refugee, and all were trying desperately to make a new life.

— Lee Stephenson

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