All Whom I Have Loved

A Novel

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Paperback
$16.00 US
On sale Mar 10, 2015 | 256 Pages | 978-0-8052-1125-2
Now in paperback, the haunting story of a Jewish family in Eastern Europe in the 1930s that prefigures the fate of the Jews during World War II.

The fates that Paul's parents will meet with Paul as terrified witness—his mother, deserted by her new husband and dying of typhus; his father, gunned down while trying to stop the robbery of a Jewish-owned shop—and his own fate as an orphaned Jewish child alone in Europe in 1938 are rendered with extraordinary subtlety and power, as they foreshadow, in the heart-wrenching story of three individuals, the cataclysm that is about to engulf all of European Jewry.At the center is nine-year-old Paul Rosenfeld, the beloved only child of divorced parents, through whose eyes we view a dissolving, increasingly chaotic world. Initially, Paul lives with his mother—a secular, assimilated schoolteacher, whom he adores until she "betrays" him by marrying the gentile André. He is then sent to live with his father—once an admired avant-garde artist, but now reviled by the critics as a "decadent Jew," who drowns his anger, pain, and humiliation in drink. Paul searches in vain for stability and meaning in a world that is collapsing around him, but his love for the earthy peasant girl who briefly takes care of him, the strange pull he feels toward the Jews praying in the synagogue near his home, and the fascination with which he observes Eastern Orthodox church rituals merely give him tantalizing glimpses into worlds of which he can never be a part.

"A riveting if ominous tale . . . In it, the unmistakable voice of a master is recognizable from its opening phrase. —California Literary Review

"The urgent moral relevance of Appelfeld's profound novels is one of the scandals of our age . . . It is a mark of his humane genius that he has made a great art out of so profound a silence." —Los Angeles Times

"Poetic in his instincts, Appelfeld has an artfully spare writing style, pregnant in its imagery, intentionally coy in its resonance." —Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review
I

My father and my mother—their life together was not happy. They did not quarrel and they did not blame each other, but the silence in the house was as hard as ice and could have been sliced along its length. Sometimes my father’s head would rise up, emerging out of this cold, as if he were about to shout. But this was just an illusion, for he did not raise his voice. I also learned not to disturb the silence, and I would sit on the floor playing dominos.
 
###
 
Father works until late, and when he appears at the front door, I put on my coat and go with him. We walk around the streets for hours and eventually we drop anchor in a café. Father drinks a coffee and I, a hot chocolate. People sit differently in a café than at home. They talk loudly and their voices flow. Only Father does not change. Sometimes it seems that among people his silence is more intense. In the evening he brings me back to my house. I still remember how he would sit on the floor and play dominos with me, go into the kitchen and prepare himself a cup of tea, and light a cigarette. Now he no longer crosses the threshold.
 
“Why doesn’t Father come inside?” I ask Mother.
 
Mother shrugs and that’s her answer. It’s hard to know if she’s hurt or angry. She, too, has learned how to keep silent. But in the evening, before I close my eyes, words return to her, and she sits on my bed and reads or tells me things. Her voice is open, her face full of light. The words flow from her, and it feels good to be close to her.
 
###
 
I turned nine, and Mother told me one day that Father would no longer be living with us but would come to visit me from time to time. I did not know what to ask and said nothing. Father is tall and lean, and even when he sits on the floor, he’s taller than I am. With his legs crossed, he leans back on his arms. I knew that from then on we would no longer be playing at home, just in the park. In the park Father’s silence is attentive; occasionally he’ll say a word or a sentence, but aside from that, nothing.
 
On days when it’s not raining, we walk along the river. Even here he hardly speaks. If I ask something, he’ll answer with a word or two. On the way, we come across wooden houses with thatched roofs, wells from which sturdy peasant women pull up overflowing buckets, stray animals, and many wooden crosses, but most exciting of all are the chapels. They are usually near tall trees, and you can spot them by their miniature forms, as if children had built them. We go into one with our heads bent and are greeted by a small icon, at whose feet there’s a shelf of dried flowers. There’s a footstool on the floor, for kneeling. The icon is old and cracked, and the face of a tortured man gazes from it. In one of the chapels we see an icon of a young woman carrying a baby close to her bosom; wonder is diffused over her full features. Father loves chapels. Once he’s inside, his face is all attention, and he’s alert. Sometimes a light glows in the chapel, casting shadows on the icons.
 
The outing with Father lasts until dark. The darkness by the water is more frightening than the darkness near the trees, perhaps because it brings to mind a sleeping animal. I grip Father’s large hand and overcome my fear.
 
When it’s cold, Mother wraps me in a warm coat and a woolen hat and Father takes me downtown. In the center of town, the streets are wide and the chestnut trees throw their shadows on the sidewalk; at every corner there’s a café or a fabric store. In the late afternoon a moist light hovers over the iron railings, and in the cafés a thick pall of cigarette smoke hangs in the air.
 
Father sits and plays chess with an elderly acquaintance. The man touches the chess piece and his hand trembles. When the game is most intense, I hear Father humming to himself. A game of chess can last an hour, sometimes two. Father plays and drinks coffee. I get a hot chocolate and a poppy seed cake. Father’s fingers are long, his fingertips stained with tobacco. He moves the piece, dragging it slowly as if to say, that’s it, no need to hurry, the enemy may be threatening, but he’s not all that strong. It’s easier for Father to talk to himself than to others. When he speaks to himself, entire sentences flow from his mouth. When he wins, he doesn’t boast. With his back hunched over, he tries to appease his opponent.
 
It’s already dark when we return home. The streets are empty, and here and there someone will pass, a lit cigarette in his mouth. When it’s cold and there’s a wind blowing, Father lifts me in his arms, and then I can see straight into the gardens and inside the windows of houses. Sometimes I see a girl sitting and playing the piano, and even though there is no one next to her, I imagine that someone is listening.
 
I want to ask Father many things, but I don’t. I know that he doesn’t like it when he’s asked things, so I hold myself back and swallow the words. Sometimes we drop in at the tavern. Father downs a drink or two and we hurry to leave, yet I grasp how the tavern is different from a café. In the tavern, peasants sit around on the benches, heavy cigarettes hanging from their mouths. The air is dense with the smells of tobacco and beer, and young girls cheerfully pass around the tankards.
 
When I return home, Mother asks me: “How was it?”
 
To her question I respond with only “All right.”
 
It’s hard for me to part from what I’ve seen, and all through the night, these sights filter into my sleep. In sleep everything is different and sometimes the opposite, even Father’s silence. Sometimes it seems that Father has lost control. His mouth is gaping open, and he is seized with fury, hitting people on both sides of him. People are scattering, but he’s fast and grabs them; only when they promise to obey him does he let them go. I wake up from sheer terror. Mother rinses my face with water and takes me into her bed. It’s hard to fall asleep again.
 
I see Father once a week. When he’s away or busy, he doesn’t come. His face disappears from my memory, and when he comes back, he seems like a different person.
© Frederic Brenner

AHARON APPELFELD is the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Iron Tracks, Until the Dawn's Light (both winners of the National Jewish Book Award), The Story of a Life (winner of the Prix Médicis Étranger), and Badenheim 1939. Other honors he has received include the Giovanni Boccaccio Literary Prize, the Nelly Sachs Prize, the Israel Prize, the Bialik Prize, and the MLA Commonwealth Award. Blooms of Darkness won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2012 and was short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013. Born in Czernowitz, Bukovina (now part of Ukraine), in 1932, Appelefeld died in Israel in 2018.

View titles by Aharon Appelfeld

About

Now in paperback, the haunting story of a Jewish family in Eastern Europe in the 1930s that prefigures the fate of the Jews during World War II.

The fates that Paul's parents will meet with Paul as terrified witness—his mother, deserted by her new husband and dying of typhus; his father, gunned down while trying to stop the robbery of a Jewish-owned shop—and his own fate as an orphaned Jewish child alone in Europe in 1938 are rendered with extraordinary subtlety and power, as they foreshadow, in the heart-wrenching story of three individuals, the cataclysm that is about to engulf all of European Jewry.At the center is nine-year-old Paul Rosenfeld, the beloved only child of divorced parents, through whose eyes we view a dissolving, increasingly chaotic world. Initially, Paul lives with his mother—a secular, assimilated schoolteacher, whom he adores until she "betrays" him by marrying the gentile André. He is then sent to live with his father—once an admired avant-garde artist, but now reviled by the critics as a "decadent Jew," who drowns his anger, pain, and humiliation in drink. Paul searches in vain for stability and meaning in a world that is collapsing around him, but his love for the earthy peasant girl who briefly takes care of him, the strange pull he feels toward the Jews praying in the synagogue near his home, and the fascination with which he observes Eastern Orthodox church rituals merely give him tantalizing glimpses into worlds of which he can never be a part.

"A riveting if ominous tale . . . In it, the unmistakable voice of a master is recognizable from its opening phrase. —California Literary Review

"The urgent moral relevance of Appelfeld's profound novels is one of the scandals of our age . . . It is a mark of his humane genius that he has made a great art out of so profound a silence." —Los Angeles Times

"Poetic in his instincts, Appelfeld has an artfully spare writing style, pregnant in its imagery, intentionally coy in its resonance." —Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review

Excerpt

I

My father and my mother—their life together was not happy. They did not quarrel and they did not blame each other, but the silence in the house was as hard as ice and could have been sliced along its length. Sometimes my father’s head would rise up, emerging out of this cold, as if he were about to shout. But this was just an illusion, for he did not raise his voice. I also learned not to disturb the silence, and I would sit on the floor playing dominos.
 
###
 
Father works until late, and when he appears at the front door, I put on my coat and go with him. We walk around the streets for hours and eventually we drop anchor in a café. Father drinks a coffee and I, a hot chocolate. People sit differently in a café than at home. They talk loudly and their voices flow. Only Father does not change. Sometimes it seems that among people his silence is more intense. In the evening he brings me back to my house. I still remember how he would sit on the floor and play dominos with me, go into the kitchen and prepare himself a cup of tea, and light a cigarette. Now he no longer crosses the threshold.
 
“Why doesn’t Father come inside?” I ask Mother.
 
Mother shrugs and that’s her answer. It’s hard to know if she’s hurt or angry. She, too, has learned how to keep silent. But in the evening, before I close my eyes, words return to her, and she sits on my bed and reads or tells me things. Her voice is open, her face full of light. The words flow from her, and it feels good to be close to her.
 
###
 
I turned nine, and Mother told me one day that Father would no longer be living with us but would come to visit me from time to time. I did not know what to ask and said nothing. Father is tall and lean, and even when he sits on the floor, he’s taller than I am. With his legs crossed, he leans back on his arms. I knew that from then on we would no longer be playing at home, just in the park. In the park Father’s silence is attentive; occasionally he’ll say a word or a sentence, but aside from that, nothing.
 
On days when it’s not raining, we walk along the river. Even here he hardly speaks. If I ask something, he’ll answer with a word or two. On the way, we come across wooden houses with thatched roofs, wells from which sturdy peasant women pull up overflowing buckets, stray animals, and many wooden crosses, but most exciting of all are the chapels. They are usually near tall trees, and you can spot them by their miniature forms, as if children had built them. We go into one with our heads bent and are greeted by a small icon, at whose feet there’s a shelf of dried flowers. There’s a footstool on the floor, for kneeling. The icon is old and cracked, and the face of a tortured man gazes from it. In one of the chapels we see an icon of a young woman carrying a baby close to her bosom; wonder is diffused over her full features. Father loves chapels. Once he’s inside, his face is all attention, and he’s alert. Sometimes a light glows in the chapel, casting shadows on the icons.
 
The outing with Father lasts until dark. The darkness by the water is more frightening than the darkness near the trees, perhaps because it brings to mind a sleeping animal. I grip Father’s large hand and overcome my fear.
 
When it’s cold, Mother wraps me in a warm coat and a woolen hat and Father takes me downtown. In the center of town, the streets are wide and the chestnut trees throw their shadows on the sidewalk; at every corner there’s a café or a fabric store. In the late afternoon a moist light hovers over the iron railings, and in the cafés a thick pall of cigarette smoke hangs in the air.
 
Father sits and plays chess with an elderly acquaintance. The man touches the chess piece and his hand trembles. When the game is most intense, I hear Father humming to himself. A game of chess can last an hour, sometimes two. Father plays and drinks coffee. I get a hot chocolate and a poppy seed cake. Father’s fingers are long, his fingertips stained with tobacco. He moves the piece, dragging it slowly as if to say, that’s it, no need to hurry, the enemy may be threatening, but he’s not all that strong. It’s easier for Father to talk to himself than to others. When he speaks to himself, entire sentences flow from his mouth. When he wins, he doesn’t boast. With his back hunched over, he tries to appease his opponent.
 
It’s already dark when we return home. The streets are empty, and here and there someone will pass, a lit cigarette in his mouth. When it’s cold and there’s a wind blowing, Father lifts me in his arms, and then I can see straight into the gardens and inside the windows of houses. Sometimes I see a girl sitting and playing the piano, and even though there is no one next to her, I imagine that someone is listening.
 
I want to ask Father many things, but I don’t. I know that he doesn’t like it when he’s asked things, so I hold myself back and swallow the words. Sometimes we drop in at the tavern. Father downs a drink or two and we hurry to leave, yet I grasp how the tavern is different from a café. In the tavern, peasants sit around on the benches, heavy cigarettes hanging from their mouths. The air is dense with the smells of tobacco and beer, and young girls cheerfully pass around the tankards.
 
When I return home, Mother asks me: “How was it?”
 
To her question I respond with only “All right.”
 
It’s hard for me to part from what I’ve seen, and all through the night, these sights filter into my sleep. In sleep everything is different and sometimes the opposite, even Father’s silence. Sometimes it seems that Father has lost control. His mouth is gaping open, and he is seized with fury, hitting people on both sides of him. People are scattering, but he’s fast and grabs them; only when they promise to obey him does he let them go. I wake up from sheer terror. Mother rinses my face with water and takes me into her bed. It’s hard to fall asleep again.
 
I see Father once a week. When he’s away or busy, he doesn’t come. His face disappears from my memory, and when he comes back, he seems like a different person.

Author

© Frederic Brenner

AHARON APPELFELD is the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Iron Tracks, Until the Dawn's Light (both winners of the National Jewish Book Award), The Story of a Life (winner of the Prix Médicis Étranger), and Badenheim 1939. Other honors he has received include the Giovanni Boccaccio Literary Prize, the Nelly Sachs Prize, the Israel Prize, the Bialik Prize, and the MLA Commonwealth Award. Blooms of Darkness won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2012 and was short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013. Born in Czernowitz, Bukovina (now part of Ukraine), in 1932, Appelefeld died in Israel in 2018.

View titles by Aharon Appelfeld

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