This book is a collaboration of father and son, the writer Aharon Appelfeld supplies the text, and his son artist Meir Appelfeld the art work. My review will relate almost exclusively to the text, though I find something of its spirit in the restrained, dignified well- composed paintings.
In the text Appelfeld tells of his early years in Jerusalem, and of the world of its cafes which were central then to his experience. Appelfeld actually likes to write in cafes, a practice which one of the well- known people spoken of in this memoir , the father of modern Hebrew narrative prose, Agnon could not understand. Appelfeld writes about walking around the city with Agnon, about an incidental encounter with Haim Hazaz, about observing an apparently angry Gershom Scholem( All eyes and hands) take his place quietly in Cafe Rehavia.
Appelfeld writes of a number of legendary no- longer existent cafes, of Cafe Peter where Appelfeld spend the greatest part of his early years , Cafe Rehavia ( Where the most bourgeois - Yekkim reigned, Cafe Vienna, Cafe Nava and bustling downtown Ben- Yehuda Street Cafe Atara.
All these cafes were small theatres where Appelfeld observed the human drama being daily played out. Appelfeld quite wondrously and affectionately describes certain characters. One a woman called Tilly a survivor of the concentration camps and a person of vast medical and pharmaceutical knowledge was especially beloved. Shortly before the Six - Day War she was overheard saying to her many friends " We cannot fear- we long ago used up our ration of fear'.
Appelfeld writes warmly of his friendship with Yiddish writer Leib Rochman with whom he learned Hasidic texts. He writes of his beginning years in writing.
He also speaks of his relation to another world of cafes that of his native Czernowitz.
As is usually the case with Appelfeld he does not try to overwhelm us with grand generalizations, and preachings. He tells the story of his early years in Jerusalem and his making as a writer.
I found this an exceptionally beautiful book.
It is very ably translated by Aloma Halter.