Blooms of Darkness Paperback – 19 Sep 2011
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'Aharon Appelfeld is fiction s foremost chronicler of the Holocaust. The stories he tells, as here in Blooms of Darkness, are small, intimate, and quietly narrated and yet are transfused into searing works of art by Appelfeld s profound understanding of loss, pain, cruelty, and grief.' -- Philip Roth
'With short, simple sentences and a brisk pace, the effect of this novel is reminiscent of a film, except that a film would place greater emphasis on dramatic incident and the horror of the situation. As readers, we are left to reflect on such matters for ourselves.' -- East-West Review
'The parents' dilemma of how to live with horror and what to tell the children; Hugo's inexorable forgetting; the inability to understand what you fear […] all are caught in Appelfeld's glancing, delicate prose.' --The Independent
About the Author
Aharon Appelfeld is the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Badenheim 1939, Tzili, The Iron Tracks (winner of the National Jewish Book Award), and The 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.
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Top Customer Reviews
The novel opens some months into the occupation, in what we may take to be early 1942. The Jews of Chernivtsi have been concentrated in a ghetto; some, including Hugo's father, have been deported to labour camps; many children have been snatched to be asphyxiated in mobile gas chambers; all those remaining in the ghetto, adults and children, are being systematically removed to an unknown destination (in fact Transnistria). In a desperate attempt to preserve his life, Hugo's mother finds a hiding place for him in a brothel, in the custody of one of the whores, a one-time school friend, Mariana. Despite Mariana's profession, Hugo's mother has never renounced her friendship; her steadfastness will now be repaid.
Hugo has to spend most of his time in an unheated closet off Mariana's room. German soldiers, "entertained" by Mariana, regularly come within a few feet of him. He overhears all. One by one, the other whores learn of his presence, increasing the danger both to him and to Mariana as the Germans hunt down every last Jew and their protectors.Read more ›
Translated from the Hebrew by Jeffrey M Green
This story of an eleven-year old Jewish boy who finds shelter with a Christian prostitute who is obliged to entertain German soldiers is captivating and moving. The boy, Hugo, is entrusted by his mother to Mariana, her old school friend `working' as a sex-slave in The Residence, an occupation she detests but which gives her the means of survival in German-speaking Ukraine. As with the Diaries of Anne Frank, the reader is ever-conscious of the horrors lying in wait for all those found guilty of harbouring Jews, who are routinely rounded up and transported. The tension of a knock on the door, the rumours, and the hopes and fears of the residents keep Hugo and the reader on tenterhooks throughout. We see only as much as Hugo sees of the outside world, as he is hidden in a closet, while nightly Mariana entertains her clients. As the days turn into weeks and years, Hugo gradually comes to realise the nature of his adoptive mother's work. Each comes to depend on the other for solace and support and eventually they become lovers, much to the scorn of the other residents. The threat of exposure to the enemy is ever-present.
As the tide of battle outside moves in favour of the Russians, the threat increases. All the women are now jumpy, many falling back on their Christian belief for succor. Collaborating whores are likely to be severely dealt with when the Russians arrive, and this indeed happens to all those who are later interrogated by the new occupiers of the city, one never mentioned by name, but clearly not far from the Carpathian mountains that Hugo and his family used to visit before the war.Read more ›
His fictional writing very much reflects his personal history. In "Blooms of Darkness", an eleven - year old boy on the cusp of manhood is brought by his mother to the local brothel where one of the prostitutes has agreed to hide him. The relationship between the two of them develops and deepens as the story progresses. Although the events described, or merely hinted at, are of course dark and deeply tragic, there is ultimately something life - affirming in Appelfeld's writing, as there is in that of the great Primo Levi. The book also provokes reflection on the nature of Jewish identity, in the modern world as well as in that time.
Much of Appelfeld's work has a dreamlike quality. In "Blooms of Darkness" I find the writing more concrete and the characters drawn in more detail, but the sparse, restrained, apparently simple prose is unmistakeably his. Aharon Appelfeld is in my opinion the greatest living writer of Holocaust fiction. I give this book the highest possible recommendation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
disappointed by this. A childs view of the holocaust and very repetitive and long winded at times.I see it won a prizePublished on 18 Mar. 2013 by bridget wilson
Heartbreaking, harrowing & unforgettable yet almost ethereal in parts!
Don't be fooled, this is not a standard 'survivor' story although I tend to love stories from a child's... Read more
Hugo, a ten year old Jewish boy in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, is hidden by his mother in a brothel... Read morePublished on 21 Jan. 2013 by J. H. Bretts