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Katerina [Hardcover]

Aron Appelfeld , Jeffrey M. Green

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Book Description

Sep 1992
Fleeing an abusive home, Katerina, a teenage peasant in Ukraine in the 1880s, is taken in by a Jewish family and becomes their housekeeper. Feeling the warmth of family life for the first time and incorporating the family’s customs and rituals into her own Christian observances, Katerina is traumatized when the parents are murdered in separate pogroms and the children are taken away by relatives. She finds work with other Jewish families, all of whom are subjected to relentless persecution by their neighbors. When the beloved child she had with her Jewish lover is murdered, Katerina kills the murderer and is sent to prison. Released from prison years later, in the chaos following the end of World War II, a now elderly Katerina is devastated to find a world that has been emptied of its Jews and that is not at all sorry to see them gone. Ever the outsider, Katerina realizes that she has survived only to bear witness to the fact that these people had ever existed at all.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Look At Terror 14 Feb 2001
By taking a rest - Published on Amazon.com
"Katerina" by Aaron Appelfeld is an original look at The Holocaust. This is a piece of history, an event that has been written about countless times, but this writer's perspective is unique. The book is a historical novel; however the circumstances he describes could have, and probably did happen in very similar form.
The protagonist Katerina is not a Jew, she is not raised to respect Jews, and her surroundings are that of anti Semitism. However events lead to her working for a Jewish Family, and as the years pass she learns to understand their culture and their religious beliefs. As her knowledge grows so does her respect for them and with it a steady degrading of the hatred for anti-Semitism she can no longer justify.
A horrifying act of cruelty to which she reasonably responds leads to her imprisonment. And it is in this prison setting the Author creates for her decades of fear and loathing of those she came from and their hatred of Jews for which she feels such contempt. Her one consistent visitor is her Lawyer, again a Jew. She is kept in this prison where the trains that carry the Holocaust's victims pass by each day. She lives with people who happily celebrate the genocide while clothing themselves in the victim's clothes and other personal effects that were confiscated.
After half of her life is passed in prison the War ends and the prisoners walk free. Even her freedom is tainted, as she is forced to endure the celebratory attitude of her fellow prisoners that all the Jews are gone, the killers of Christ have themselves been killed. So even when she returns to her village that she left behind 63 years in her past she does so knowing the people she adopted as equals have been decimated, and people that never knew her then, now know her as the murderess, the legend she has become.
The Author portrays a scene of this very old woman coming upon what was a Temple, and the effect of the writing is as galvanizing as any thing you may read. This is a book that is unlike others books about the Genocide of WWII, all the horror is there, but it is left more to your mind's eye than placed before you in all its historical butchery. The emotional trauma this woman endures during the War combined with the balance of her suffering in life, is of a magnitude that is awesome both in its scope and depth of despair.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars terrific insightful historical 11 Feb 2006
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Sixty-three years ago then teenager Katerina left her Ukraine village because her father's mountain of a second wife makes her uncomfortable with her demands and she fears the changes in her father since her mom died. She travels to Poland where she obtains work as a housekeeper to different Jewish families. Katerina finds her hosts treat her with respect and kindness unlike her own blood; she is horrified with how the non-Jewish Poles mistreat her employers even getting away with murder.

When her son, raised Jewish, is killed, she knifes his murderer. Of course killing a Jew is not necessarily a crime, but killing the killer is so Katerina spends the next four decades incarcerated. She is shocked during World War II when her fellow prisoners gleefully applaud the transporting of the Jews to concentration camps. When the war ends, Katerina is freed and returns to her Ukraine family farm knowing no Jews live in Europe except those from her memories occupying a major place in her heart and soul as she writes her life's lament while closing in on her eightieth birthday.

KATERINA is a terrific insightful look at a woman who believes one must never forget those you love martyred in your soul by a world filled with morally always right killers. The sad Katerina knows first hand that intolerance and prejudice in any form murders even the innocent. Aharon Appelfeld provides a strong poignant reflection on life and death.

Harriet Klausner
4.0 out of 5 stars an excellent book telling a painful tale 27 May 2014
By K. Kennedy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
"Katerina" by Aharon Appelfeld is a novel about a Ruthenian peasant at the close of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. In her own voice, she describes the brutality and intolerance of the time and place, and how minorities spent centuries surrounded by one another, but without any real attempt to interact with them in a positive way. Katerina works for Jewish families, and gains a respect for them in many ways, and considers herself the keeper of their heritage after they are no longer there, due to the Holocaust. This is a fascinating book--it tells of the hatreds and violence of one time and place through the eyes of a single woman.
4.0 out of 5 stars Katerina , a real woman 9 Mar 2014
By Rocky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I know that this is a translation but the visual poetry if Applefeld's words are extremely powerful and evoke a country and it's people.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Russia in the late 1800's early 1900's 6 Feb 2010
By Joanne Aloni - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great book to get a sense of an ethnic minority in Russia. A first hand view by this author.
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