cover image The Healer

The Healer

Aharon Appelfeld / Author, Jeffrey M. Green / Translator, Aron Appelfeld

Narrated with the ever-expanding significance of a parable and the disarming simplicity of a folk tale, this novel of family life in pre-WW II Vienna by the accomplished Israeli author ( For Every Sin ) explores the complex web of emotions binding Felix, a testy but thriving factory owner; his wife, Henrietta, from whom he feels estranged; and their children. Karl, physically adept, is failing in school; his father denies him the military academy training he desires. Helga, a gifted pianist, develops neurotic symptoms that no doctor--not even ``one of Professor Jung's assistants''--can cure. Though no longer practicing Jews, the four make a pilgrimage, for Helga's sake, to a remote Jewish hamlet in the Carpathian Mountains, near Henrietta's ancestral home, to consult an old man reputed to be a healer. There they pass six snowed-in months at a lavish inn. Felix eats and idles, scornful of what he views as quackery. He picks fights and reflects on his empty life while his wife and daughter heed the sage's counsel to pray and study the ``bright, holy letters'' of Scripture. Felix's efforts to leave the mountain for his beloved city, where anti-Semitism is already rife, bestow a tragic irony on the close of this resonant work. (June)