7 August 09 | Chad W. Post

The latest addition to our book review section is Dan Vitale’s piece on Aharon Appelfeld’s Laish, which was translated from the Hebrew by Aloma Halter and published by Shocken Books earlier this year.

Appelfeld has had a number of titles translated into English, including Badenheim 1939 and The Story of a Life.

In addition to being a long-time reader of Three Percent, Dan Vitale is a writer, editor, and book reviewer. And here’s the opening of his review:

The opening sentences of Laish, the Israeli writer Aharon Appelfeld’s fourteenth novel to be published in English translation, are deceptively like those of a typical first-person confessional story:

“My name is Laish, and those who like me call me Laishu. I have yet to run into anyone with such a strange name. . . . I’ve heard that the name comes from Hungary. Who knows?—my parents died young. A few years ago, I could still see them in a blurred way. Now I’m fifteen, and their features have been effaced from my memory.”

The boy’s engaging, conversational voice, his tragic orphanhood, the focus on his interior life: none prepares us for the novel as a whole. It turns out that Laish will be the faithfully observant narrator of a collective experience, to the point where his personality is virtually relegated to the periphery of the story. But this shift is characteristic of Appelfeld’s method throughout the book, which is to constantly upend the reader’s expectations in favor of striking and uniquely unexpected gestures.

Click here to read the entire piece.

(And looking ahead to next week we’ll have reviews of Bolano’s The Skating Rink and Tanguy Viel’s Beyond Suspicion.)

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