Overview

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

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, who he adores until she “betrays” him by marrying the gentile André. He is then sent...
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All Whom I Have Loved

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Overview

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

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, who 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 towards 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.

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.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Israeli novelist Appelfeld (The Story of a Life; The Iron Tracks) sets this pre-Holocaust novel in 1938 Czernowitz, Ukraine, where narrator Paul Rosenfeld, a nine-year-old Jewish boy, watches his family and community fall apart. Paul, whose isolation is exacerbated by his exemption from school because of his asthma, watches as, in short order, his parents divorce, his adored nanny is killed by her jealous fiance and his schoolteacher mother abandons him (first when she marries a colleague and converts to Christianity, and later when she contracts typhus and dies). Paul is left in the care of his father, a depressed, alcoholic painter who hardly speaks except to rail against the anti-Semitic art critics who have labeled his art "decadent" and thwarted his career. Paul daydreams about an idyllic country vacation he once took with his mother and finds himself drawn to the Orthodox Jews he meets. Meanwhile, strangers hurl anti-Semitic insults and World War II looms. Though Appelfeld's bewildered child narrator is a pleasure to follow, he stumbles into gratingly precious territory on occasion. For all its morbidity, the story is seductive and, ultimately, devastating. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This haunting and mesmerizing story from internationally acclaimed Israeli writer Appelfeld is narrated by nine-year-old Paul Rosenfeld, who lives with his mother, a secular, assimilated Jew in the pre-World War II Ukrainian village of Czernowitz (where Appelfeld was born in 1932). The sights and sounds of the village are so vivid and the scenery, people, and life of the townsfolk described so viscerally that the book is truly a tribute to the all-encompassing power of Appelfeld's memory. Paul is able to discern what his schoolteacher mother is thinking and feeling and what his alcoholic father's moods will be. Early on, Paul has his mother's attention fully; they swim together and take long walks, and she makes him his favorite dishes. But then she marries the gentile Andre, and Paul has to live with his father, once a noted artist and now referred to as a decadent Jew. The foreshadowing of the Holocaust, which will engulf all of European Jewry, is evident throughout. Highly recommended.
—Molly Abramowitz
Kirkus Reviews
The shadows of World War II and the Holocaust gather slowly and menacingly throughout this previously untranslated 1999 novel from the internationally celebrated Israeli author (The Iron Tracks, 1998, etc.). Ingenuous narrator Paul Rosenfeld is a six-year-old boy living in the Ukraine in the 1930s, sometimes with his mother, Henia (a schoolteacher), sometimes with his father, Arthur, a gifted painter from whom Henia is divorced. Concentrated in the spare declarative sentences that are the author's trademark, the novel deftly renders Paul's growing awareness of both his mother's need for more love than he can give her (provided now by the new husband, whom Paul bitterly resents) and the anger intensifying in his father, who is forced to abandon painting and teach high-school art, and is simultaneously appalled and energized by evidence of growing anti-Semitic prejudice. Unfortunately, the story is heavily weighted with foreshadowings that come in the form of Paul's perceptions and disturbing dreams. The sounds of livestock being slaughtered, for example, produce a vision of "blood flowing in the sky and pouring into the horizon." They are affecting moments, but they reveal too nakedly the author's heavy hand. Appelfeld succeeds, however, in charting Arthur's increasing despair, as an exhibition offers the chance to create once again-until the climate of repression awakens the violence that will consume him, just as the perilous temper of the times has claimed Henia, leaving Paul to face the future they have all feared: alone. Artful and troubling. Still, Appelfeld has written many better books than this one.
From the Publisher
Praise for Aharon Appelfeld:

Badenheim 1939
“The writing flows seamlessly . . . [This is] a small masterpiece.”
The New York Times Book Review

Tzili
Tzili’s steadiness of vision and quiet acceptance of life reduced to an absolute minimum give it a sense of buoyancy the more moving for being apparently effortless.”
The New York Review of Books

To the Land of the Cattails
“Among us, the writers-survivors, Appelfeld’s voice has a unique, unmistakeable tone . . . I am struck with awe and admiration.”
—Primo Levi

The Iron Tracks
“This tale of reparation and retaliation is art at its highest.”
The Washington Post

The Conversion
“A work of subtle power, at once a historical novel and a moral parable.”
The Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307481320
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/10/2008
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Aharon Appelfeld is the author of more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Badenheim 1939, Tzili, The Iron Tracks (winner of the National Jewish Book Award), The Conversion, and The Story of a Life (winner of the Prix Médicis Étranger). Other honors he has received include the Israel Prize, the Bialik Prize, the MLA Commonwealth Award, and the Nelly Sachs Prize. Born in Czernowitz, Bukovina (now part of the Ukraine), in 1932, he lives in Israel.


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