FOR EVERY SIN by Aharon Appelfeld


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Appelfeld's work (Badenheim 1939; The Immortal Bartfuss) is more about the pre-and post-Holocaust moments than about the enormity straight on. Like The Immortal Bartfuss (1988), which concentrated inextinguishable hatred and dissatisfaction in the shady days of one survivor, this short novel deals with a man, Theo, just out of the camps and determined to traverse the refugee-choked landscape of middle Europe to get back to his home. He goes like a somnambulist, hating the cowering togetherness of the other survivors, their inertia and fear. In fact, when he gets home, he plans to convert to Christianity--as a tribute to his dead mad mother's love for Bach as well as a renunciation of Jewish fatalism. He has no hesitation in telling others of this intention, either--and everyone he tells is horrified; one man becomes so agitated that he picks a fight and is killed during it. Theo becomes a fugitive from his own post-crime crime. Appelfeld has enough pregnant themes here--Jewish solidarity of suffering, individualism, guilt at memory--from which to have made a major ethical work of fiction; but the rough, gray textures of the prose (repeating itself much of the time, or at least in Green's translation) drain all life from it. A droning allegory, only fitfully haunting.

ISBN: 1-55584-318-2
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Trafalgar
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