Blooms of Darkness
Blooms of Darkness
Schocken Books Inc, Hardcover, 9780805242805, 279pp.
Publication Date: March 9, 2010
A new novel from the award-winning, internationally acclaimed Israeli writer ("One of the greatest writers of the age""--The Guardian"), a haunting, heartbreaking story of love and loss.
The ghetto in which the Jews have been confined is being liquidated by the Nazis, and eleven-year-old Hugo is brought by his mother to the local brothel, where one of the prostitutes has agreed to hide him. Mariana is a bitterly unhappy woman who hates what she has done to her life, and night after night Hugo sits in her closet and listens uncomprehendingly as she rages at the Nazi soldiers who come and go. When she's not mired in self-loathing, Mariana is fiercely protective of the bewildered, painfully polite young boy. And Hugo becomes protective of Mariana, too, trying to make her laugh when she is depressed, soothing her physical and mental agony with cold compresses. As the memories of his family and friends grow dim, Hugo falls in love with Mariana. And as her life spirals downward, Mariana reaches out for consolation to the adoring boy who is on the cusp of manhood.
The arrival of the Russian army sends the prostitutes fleeing. But Mariana is too well known, and she is arrested as a Nazi collaborator for having slept with the Germans. As the novel moves toward its heartrending conclusion, Aharon Appelfeld once again crafts out of the depths of unfathomable tragedy a renewal of life and a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.
“I love Aharon Appelfeld’s Blooms of Darkness. How can this great novelist still find fresh ways of telling the terrible story of those years? There’s nothing reflexive or familiar in here, each sentence is exquisitely judged; we read with the same astonishment and trepidation as if it was all happening now, and for the first time. It’s so sad, and yet it’s also all told through the child’s appetite for life, and with unquenched curiosity and hopefulness. We inhabit those things, taking refuge as Hugo does in the bliss of the moment—because, after all, what else is there?”
—Tessa Hadley, “The Year in Reading,” The New Yorker
“Like Anne Frank’s diary—a work to which it will draw justified comparison—Blooms of Darkness, beautifully translated by Jeffrey M. Green, records a brutal process of education. . . . It is in his rendering of the border territory that Hugo and Mariana inhabit that Appelfeld reveals his compassion, his wisdom, and his restraint. . . . Majestic and humane.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Succeeds brilliantly as a gripping tale of Holocaust survival, but on this occasion, Appelfeld’s literary imagination achieves a great deal more, creating a lyrically rendered story of adolescent sexual awakening, confusion, and love that gestures toward the painful inevitability of loss in any life. Above all, as is often the case with Appelfeld’s most powerful works, Blooms of Darkness is an eloquent meditation on the resources of the mind, the consolations of memory, and the imagination under duress.”
“An unadorned and heartbreaking tale of a young boy coming of age during World War II . . . Poignant and tender without being sentimental, the novel achieves its powerful emotive effects through simplicity and understatement—a beautiful read.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred
“A simple story that encapsulates the joy and sadness of a coming-of-age novel with the trauma of a world in the midst of destruction. The lean, spare prose does not shy away from harsh realities. . . . A powerful novel.”
“Aharon Appelfeld is fiction’s foremost chronicler of the Holocaust. The stories he tells, as here in Blooms of Darkness, are small, intimate, and quietly narrated and yet are transfused into searing works of art by Appelfeld’s profound understanding of loss, pain, cruelty, and grief.”