Jill's Reviews > Blooms of Darkness

Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld
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May 05, 2012

really liked it
Read from May 01 to 05, 2012

It is not unusual to compare a Holocaust-themed book with other excellent fictional works from that time period. So it was interesting that the one book that sprung to mind after closing the pages of completing Blooms of Darkness was Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

The parallels between the two abound. Don Quixote—in the traditions of knights-errant of old – finds a love whom he names Dulcinea…or “sweetness.” She is not rich or famous or beautiful or well-born, but to him, she is his queen and his lady. She begins as someone with little self-worth but by the end, she blooms under Don Quixote’s love.

In Blooms of Darkness, the person who blooms is Mariana, who works in a brothel that services German occupiers. She is entrusted with the care of Hugo – a pre-teen – by his mother, an old school friend, when the Jews are forced to go into hiding.

Although the story is Hugo’s, the spotlight often shines on Mariana, a contradiction of piousness and looseness, self-centerness and unselfishness. Hidden in Mariana’s closet – literally and figuratively – Hugo craves her attention and views her as his personal Dulcinea. The majority of the novel is set within her bedroom…and in his imagination.

Aharon Appelfeld – a 78-year-old Israeli writer – and his excellent translator Jeffrey M. Green – write the entire book in the present; the implication is that the present is the only time that exists, since the past and the future have been obliterated. The tone is understated and controlled, taut and haunting.

Gradually, he creates a grafting of his two key characters – Hugo and Mariana. As a mocking townswoman says: “Whores and Jews are always persecuted. There’s nothing to be done.” Indeed, as life spirals downward for both Hugo and Mariana – as the world looks on without pity and defines each of them as less than human – the two look to each other for sustenance and love.

At times, as a reader, I hoped for a little less reticence; still, there was no time where I didn’t admire and respect what Mr. Appelfeld was so intelligently creating. The universal themes of loss and loneliness are explored here, along with the optimism of the differences that one person can make in the life of another. While the story is grim and disturbing, it is, in curious ways, also uplifting.
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03/04 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Jessica (new)

Jessica I always enjoy your reviews so much. I'll have to check this one out!

Jill Awwww...thanks Jessica!

message 3: by Will (last edited May 06, 2012 11:35PM) (new)

Will Byrnes Another excellent review. Sounds intriguing.

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