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Released from a concentration camp after the war, Aron Blank looks for and eventually finds the only other surviving member of his family, his son Mark, whom he was forced to abandon when Mark was only two years old. Working first in the black market and later as a Russian interpreter, Aron tries to rebuild a normal life for himself and his son in East Berlin. Decades later, with Mark lost in the Six-Day War, Aron tells his story to a young interviewer—the flow of his poignant narrative occasionally interrupted ...
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The Boxer: A Novel

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Released from a concentration camp after the war, Aron Blank looks for and eventually finds the only other surviving member of his family, his son Mark, whom he was forced to abandon when Mark was only two years old. Working first in the black market and later as a Russian interpreter, Aron tries to rebuild a normal life for himself and his son in East Berlin. Decades later, with Mark lost in the Six-Day War, Aron tells his story to a young interviewer—the flow of his poignant narrative occasionally interrupted by their brief exchanges, which are peppered with humor. Written with the understated elegance that brought Becker worldwide acclaim for Jacob the Liar, this is a rare portrait of Jewish life in postwar Germany and a profoundly human story of survival, friendship, and fatherly love.
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Editorial Reviews

Tom LeClair
Published in Germany in 1976, this novel by the late author of Jacob the Liar is the story of a Holocaust survivor, Aron Blank, who tells a young writer about his postcamp Berlin years raising his motherless son, Mark. Becker, himself a survivor, uses the unnamed writer's months-long "interrogation" of Aron to reveal some of the Holocaust's long-term effects. Because he was powerless in the camps, Aron often uses eccentric ways of asserting control. He changes jobs and women on whims, and, talking to the writer, he similarly changes moods. Even though physical prowess would have been irrelevant against the Nazis, Aron trains Mark to be a boxer so that his son will become more powerful than he is. Narrated with a Kafkaesque flatness and developed with a Beckettian obsessiveness, the book is a remarkably subtle and artfully combative study of post-traumatic persistence. It's impossible to understand why it has not been translated before now.
Publishers Weekly
Becker's Holocaust novel begins intriguingly with a man recovering his eight-year-old son after both survive stints in different concentration camps, but the combination of a lifeless protagonist and some listless plotting slowly undermines the promising conceit. Aron Blank is the aptly named Holocaust survivor who emerges from his horrific experience and finds his son through a rescue agency in Bavaria that hospitalized the boy under the name of Mark Berger. As Mark recuperates from pneumonia at the hospital, Blank falls into a relationship with a beautiful worker at the agency, Paula Seltzer. Blank's struggles with alcohol and his unwillingness to look for work put a strain on the relationship, and when the agency locates Seltzer's old boyfriend, she quickly leaves Blank. Blank manages to find a job as a bookkeeper for a black-market operation in Berlin, and when his son is finally released from the hospital, he approaches the boy's attractive nurse, Irma, and asks her to move in. The arrangement is nominally successful in the early going, but when Irma puts her foot down and demands marriage, the situation falls apart in a hurry. Becker defines the novel's central problem with a comment in one of Mark's letters to his father: "I have never met a person who lives as separated from life as you." Unfortunately, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and despite the remarkable trauma inherent in the narrative, both protagonists remain aloof and remote throughout the novel. Blank's affair with Seltzer is the only episode that brings the tale briefly to life; the rest is unaccountably flat. (July) Forecast: The success of Becker's novel Jacob the Liar (and the publicity for its film version starring Robin Williams) will give The Boxer an initial boost, but a lukewarm critical reception might blunt sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Recent translation of a 1976 semi-fantastic novel by the late Becker (Jakob the Liar, 1996, etc.), a Polish-born Holocaust survivor who opted to stay in Germany after WWII. Aron Blank "materializes" out of postwar Germany, having spent the war in a concentration camp. The war has effectively erased him. His internment has made a "blank" of him quite literally: he needs a new identity card even to exist. It's not long before he's set up with an apartment and a lover, Paula, who works for Rescue, an organization that reunites families displaced by the war. In short order, Rescue helps Aron locate his son, Mark, in Bavaria. Aron barely remembers the boy, and vice versa, and at the orphanage, where more than 200 children are housed Aron realizes that the director could simply decide which boy is his. Still, they find Mark, the awkwardness of the reunion passes, and the boy comes to live with Aron, and for a time it looks as if the war will have a kind of happy ending. Then Rescue finds Walter, Paula's old beau. Aron sinks into despair as she leaves. He no longer works in the black market but turns to doing translation for Russian authorities, and soon he has a new love, Irma. As Mark grows up, he starts to show an interest in boxing-indeed, Aron was something of a boxer before the war. Time begins to pass quickly: Aron inherits $50,000 from a friend who dies in Baltimore; has a heart attack; divorces Irma; retires; and is left again with Mark as his only connection to the outside world. More interesting than the actual story is Becker's narrative strategy: throughout, Aron is being interviewed by the novel's journalist narrator; their conversations are a kind of continuous interruptionreminding us that the story is as much about a writer's relationship with his material as it is about Aron's travails. Early experimentation by a gifted German voice.
The New York Times Book Review
“Becker speaks with the voice of knowledge, and we do well to listen.”
Los Angeles Times
“Restrained, yet quietly intense, The Boxer has a veracity and scrupulousness that place it in a class of its own.”
Washington Times
“A fascinating, very readable, and elegantly told tale, written in the best tradition of Kafka.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611459951
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/31/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 292
  • File size: 644 KB

Meet the Author

Jurek Becker was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1937. A Holocaust survivor, he was one of the very few Jews to remain in Germany after the war. He became an internationally acclaimed novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter and died in 1997.

Alessandra Bastagli is the translator of Primo Levi's stories in A Tranquil Star and his essays in The Complete Works. She lives in New York.

Ruth Franklin is a contributing editor at The New Republic and the author of A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 16, 2013

    Unusual approach to Holocaust fiction

    Becker's novel differs from most Holocaust fiction in that it concerns itself with the subject's life after the war is over and the concentration camps liberated. Framed as a kind of interview, the novel gives us both interviewer and interviewee in a text that moves fairly fluidly between the two in its focus. The survivor wants to find his youngest child--a son who also lived through the war--and try to create a new life with him. The novel is a backwards glance over the man's life, long after the events have already transpired. Smartly written; not a page-turner, but rather an investigation into a damaged life.

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