Aharon Appelfeld's Fiction

Aharon Appelfeld's Fiction

Acknowledging the Holocaust
Emily Miller Budick
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/21/2004
Format: cloth 224 pages, 1 index
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-34492-2
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How can a fictional text adequately or meaningfully represent the events of the Holocaust? Drawing on philosopher Stanley Cavell’s ideas about “acknowledgment” as a respectful attentiveness to the world, Emily Miller Budick develops a penetrating philosophical analysis of major works by internationally prominent Israeli writer Aharon Appelfeld. Through sensitive discussions of the novels Badenheim 1939, The Iron Tracks, The Age of Wonders, and Tzili, and the autobiographical work The Story of My Life, Budick reveals the compelling art with which Appelfeld renders the sights, sensations, and experiences of European Jewish life preceding, during, and after the Second World War. She argues that it is through acknowledging the incompleteness of our knowledge and understanding of the catastrophe that Appelfeld’s fiction produces not only its stunning aesthetic power but its affirmation and faith in both the human and the divine. This beautifully written book provides a moving introduction to the work of an important and powerful writer and an enlightening meditation on how fictional texts deepen our understanding of historical events.

Jewish Literature and Culture—Alvin H. Rosenfeld, editor

Author Bio

Emily Miller Budick holds the Ann and Joseph Adelman Chair in American Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is author of Fiction and Historical Consciousness: The American Romance Tradition and editor of Modern Hebrew Fiction by Gershon Shaked (IUP, 2000) and Ideology and Jewish Identity in Israeli and American Literature.


"Appelfeld's literary career has been marked by two distinctive features: his unswerving attention to the conditions of the Holocaust (without exception, all of his many novels give it voice) and a narrative method characterized by personal removal and indirection (his versions of the Holocaust seem to some evasive and mystifying). Appelfeld's fictional world is at a chronological remove from the actual killing fields of the Holocaust, and his witnesses draw on memory to recall historical events; the result is a narrative that foreshadows the impending violence rather than enacts it. Whereas previous studies have conceived Appelfeld's fiction as a source of historical factual knowledge, Budick (Hebrew Univ., Jerusalem) shifts her critical examination from literary testament to philosophic meditation. Leaning on the precepts of contemporary philosophers, primarily Stanley Cavell, the author relies on the term acknowledgment. This key word serves as the basis of her sensitive reading of the ironic interplay between knowledge and acknowledgement, between the absolute of knowing and the more subtle and intellectually honest acknowledgment that describes a reader's response when confronted with new demands that impinge themselves from the outside world. This is a rich and compelling book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate and research collection" —M. Butovsky, emeritus, Concordia University , Choice , October 2005

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Table of Contents

1. Acknowledgment and the Human Condition: Historical, Psychoanalytic, and Philosophical Approaches to Writing on the Holocaust
2. Literature, Ideology, and the Measure of Moral Freedom: Badenheim 1939
3. Fear, Trembling, and the Pathway to God: The Iron Tracks
4. The Conditions That Condition This Utterly Specific People: The Age of Wonders
5. Religious Faith and the "Question of the Human": Tzili: The Story of a Life
6. Imagination, Memory, and the Storied Life: The Story of a Life
Works by Appelfeld Cited in Text