The Story of a Life by Aharon Appelfeld
A Memoir

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Synopsis

In spare, haunting, almost hallucinogenic prose, the internationally acclaimed, award-winning novelist shares with us–for the first time–the story of his own extraordinary survival and rebirth.

Aharon Appelfeld’s childhood ended when he was seven years old. The Nazis occupied Czernowitz in 1941, penned the Jews into a ghetto, and, a few months later, sent whoever had not been shot or starved to death on a forced march across the Ukraine to a labor camp. As men, women, and children fall away around them, Aharon and his father (his mother was killed in the early days of the occupation) miraculously survive, and Aharon, even more miraculously, escapes from the camp shortly after he arrives there.

The next few years of Aharon’s life are both harrowing and heartrending: he hides, alone, in the Ukrainian forests from peasants who are only too happy to turn Jewish children over to the Nazis; he has the presence of mind to pass himself off as an orphaned gentile when he emerges from the forest to seek work; and, at war’s end, he joins the stream of refugees as they cross Europe on their way to displaced persons’ camps that have been set up for the survivors. He observes the full range of personalities in the camps–exploitation exists side by side with compassion–until he manages to get on a ship bound for Palestine. Once there, Aharon attempts to build a new life while struggling to retain the barely remembered fragments of his old life (everyone urges him simply to forget what he had experienced), and he takes his first, tentative steps as a writer. As he begins to receive national attention, Aharon realizes his life’s calling: to bear witness to the unfathomable. In this unforgettable work of memory, Aharon Appelfeld offers personal glimpses into the experiences that resonate throughout his fiction.
 

About Aharon Appelfeld

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Aharon Appelfeld is the author of more than twenty acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, including Badenheim 1939, Tzili, The Iron Tracks, and The Conversion. He lives in Israel.
 
Published October 5, 2004 by Schocken. 208 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Religion & Spirituality, Travel. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Story of a Life

Kirkus Reviews

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A lyrical, impressionistic memoir by a Holocaust survivor who was only seven when the Nazis first blackened the sun.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Story of a Life: A Memoir

The New York Times

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Aharon Appelfeld's memoir of a life shaped by the Holocaust, full of the remembrance of things nonverbal and things left unsaid.

Oct 31 2004 | Read Full Review of The Story of a Life: A Memoir

The Guardian

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The Story of a Life by Aharon Appelfeld, translated by Aloma Halter 208pp, Hamish Hamilton, £14.99 Like a series of luminous paintings discovered in the darkness of a vaulted church after the bombs have fallen, this memoir evokes a wonder which is on the other side of language.

Sep 24 2005 | Read Full Review of The Story of a Life: A Memoir

Publishers Weekly

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Only the most artful writer could relate nearly seven decades of life—a life that encompasses the Holocaust, resettlement in Palestine, army service, university studies with the likes of Gershom Scholem and Martin Buber, finding his writer's voice—in barely more than 200 pages and leave the reade...

Oct 04 2004 | Read Full Review of The Story of a Life: A Memoir

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