Laish by Aharon Appelfeld
A novel

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Synopsis

A caravan of Jews wanders through Eastern Europe at the end of the nineteenth century on a heartbreaking quest. Spiritual seekers and the elderly, widows and orphans, the sick and the dying, con artists and adventurers, victims of pogroms who have no place else to go–they are all on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, but the journey is filled with unexpected detours and unanticipated disaster.

Among them is Laish, a fifteen-year-old orphan, through whose eyes we observe the interactions within this ragtag group of dreamers, holy men, misfits, and thieves as they battle with one another, try to stay one step ahead of the gendarmes, and do what little they can to keep up their flagging spirits. With the death of the rabbi who brought the group together, they are now led by men whom Laish refers to as “the dealers”–black-market traders whose motives are questionable but who periodically infuse the group with the money they need to get to the next town.

Years pass, tempers start to fray, and the caravan grows smaller as people die or abandon the venture. A brutal winter and typhoid epidemic further decimate the ranks, and the pilgrims have begun to reach the limits of their endurance. The dream of Jerusalem keeps the remnant going, and against all odds they finally arrive–emotionally and physically exhausted–at the port city of Galacz. They see their ship in the harbor, but whether they will actually make it onto that ship is suddenly and tragically thrown into doubt.

This magnificent new novel from Aharon Appelfeld (“One of the greatest writers of the age” —The Guardian) resonates with a universality of experience: the will to survive, the struggle to hold on to hope.
 

About Aharon Appelfeld

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Aharon Appelfeld is the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, includingBadenheim 1939,Tzili,The Iron Tracks(winner of the National Jewish Book Award), andThe Story of a Life(winner of the Prix Médicis Étranger). Other honors he has received include the Giovanni Bocaccio Literary Prize, the Nelly Sachs Prize, the Israel Prize, the Bialik Prize, and the MLA Commonwealth Award. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received honorary degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, and Yeshiva University. Born in Czernowitz, Bukovina (now part of Ukraine), in 1932, he lives in Israel.
 
Published March 10, 2009 by Schocken. 240 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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