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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Will an Israeli writer ever again win a Nobel Prize?

Aharon Appelfeld is one whose name keeps coming up, along w/ A.B. Yehoshua, as potential Nobel winners, thought I doubt the award will ever again go to an Israeli writer; I'd never read any of his novels, and started yesterday on the brief novel Suddenly, Love, based on a strong review I'd read probably a year ago. Perhaps this isn't the best starting point for readers new to Appelfeld, though, I gather from what I know of his other books, that it's typical in that it's about contemporary Israelis still living in the shadow of the Holocaust. It's a very stark book, to put it mildly: half-way through, and it appears there will be only two characters in the entire novel, Ernst, a retired Israeli businessman who is recovery from surgery (back surgery?) and devotes his time to writing. He's not a published writer and, one suspects, not a very good writer, either, but he's trying through his writing, as many do, to make sense of the course of his life, which has been tormented: in youth he left his Rumanian family and took up with Stalinist-Communists an activist and even a terrorist in the cause. Precisely what brought him to Israel is unclear at this point, but he is in some ways using his writing to restore the broken connection with his parents and his childhood. The other character, Irena, is a 30-something orphaned caretaker, trained as a nurse and now working full time for Ernst. She is not an intellectual, and is in some ways - unlike him - a devout Jew. She also has a longing for her parents, whom she dreams about often, and a devotion to Ernst, with whom she's obviously enamored. He, too, is very attracted to her but cannot or will not express these feelings directly. They are both suffering in their loneliness, both victims in a sense of the great social upheavals of their youth. And you can't help but think that the title gives too much away, that they will in some way eventually find salvation or peace in some kind of expressed love for each other.

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