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This review is taken from PN Review 62, Volume 14 Number 6, July - August 1988.

JOURNEY INTO NIGHT Aharon Appelfeld, To the Land of the Reeds (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) £9.95

British readers who have not yet made the acquaintance of the Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld will discover from this book that he is a writer of great subtlety and power. He is also something of a phenomenon. Born a Jew in Czernovitz, Bukovina, in 1932, he was sent by the Nazis with all his family to a concentration camp, but escaped and survived for three years by hiding in the Ukrainian countryside, eventually joining the Russian army. After the war he found his way to Palestine, where he arrived in 1946 at the ripe age of fourteen. His works in Hebrew include stories, essays, and eight novels, most of which concern the years immediately leading up to the destruction of the Jewish populations of Europe.

It is sometimes said that the horror of those events precludes any response in the form of imaginative literature, or more hysterically, that the holocaust has made poetry impossible. Such feelings, I suspect, stem from a number of sources, ranging from simple embarrassment to the ultimately puritan stance which finds literature per se morally wanting because it deals in fictions. Whatever its grounds, this position has unfortunate effects. It confers a strange kind of Pyrrhic victory upon the book-burners of Nuremberg; and it allows the victims of the Nazi persecution to fall into a silence as complete as their persecutors could have wished for them. Appelfeld's response to this supposed dilemma is in effect to allow the persecuted to speak, and to ...


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