The Immortal Bartfuss

Aron Appelfeld, Author George Weidenfeld & Nicholson $0 (137p) ISBN 978-1-55584-152-2
With this masterly but devastating portrait of a Holocaust survivor, the author of Tzili and To the Land of the Cattails abandons the milieu of WW II Europe and embraces the contemporary setting of modern-day Israel. Appelfeld distills his trademark elliptic, dreamlike poetic prose into a bitter brew, introducing Bartfuss, a wretched, paranoid miser who hoards his words and thoughts as well as his worldly fortune. Nicknamed ""The Immortal'' because of injuries withstood in a concentration camp (the episode is alluded to but never explained), Bartfuss is enervated by his hatred of his wife Rosa, whom he taunts for sleeping with village peasants to save her life during the war. This work is a blend of allegory and realism (Bartfuss represents a type of survivor whose tragedy has eaten away at his soul; he is also symbolic of an alienated Israel). The claustrophobia of this tale (``Everywhere the same gravelly accent, the same weary blur of people swamped by many disasters which had pressed a mask of staleness on their faces'') is relieved somewhat by the protagonist's feeble love for his retarded daughter, Bridget, and a desire, however conflicted and thwarted, that the suffering of Holocaust survivors should somehow ennoble them. (February)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1988
Release date: 01/01/1988
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