Israel prize-winning author Aharon Appelfeld dies at 85

JERUSALEM—Reading Aharon Appelfeld novels, you could hear his heart throb as if he still was in the woods where he lived for three years at the age of eight, after he escaped alone from a concentration camp. Bands of thieves, rooms of prostitutes, leaves, barns were his hiding places. He knew he should not reveal his Jewish identity to anybody. Maybe that is why he always spoke in a whisper: Because the fear of being caught never left him.

Israel Prize laureate Aharon Appelfeld passed away early Thursday morning in Jerusalem surrounded by his wife and three children. In his 85 years, he experienced and described many different worlds: First, the comfortable family life of his native Romania, followed by the extermination camp,  the woods, the home of a Ukrainian prostitute that sheltered him from the Nazis, illegal immigration to the Land of Israel and the building of the country from the very beginning.

All this lies in his books where everything appears simple at first, but actually explain the most inexplicable situations, like the day he met his father in Israel more than 15 years after he thought he had perished in the Holocaust.

Appelfeld didn’t like to be labeled a “Holocaust author” and although the Holocaust is the main theme in his novels, he never wrote about gas chambers or atrocities. Rather, he preferred to write about survivors.

His 45 works were translated into many languages, including The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping which was published in the United States in English last year. His last original work, Timhon, was published in Hebrew two years ago.

His most acclaimed novels include Tzili (1983), Bandenheim 1939 (1979) and Blooms of Darkness (2006).

Apart from the Israel Prize, which he won in 1983, Appelfeld was awarded a slew of literary prizes including the Brenner Prize (1975), the Bialik Prize (1979), and the National Jewish Book Award for fiction (1989).

President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin and his wife Nechama expressed their condolences to Appelfeld’s family, Tweeting that they were “very sad about the passing of our beloved writer.”

Culture Minister Miri Regev added that Appelfeld books are a “part of our national memory”.

Mara Vigevani :