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A Table for One: Under the Light of Jerusalem [Paperback]

Aharon Appelfeld

Price: CDN$ 14.07 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25. Details
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Jerusalem Cafe Apprenticeship Jan. 15 2007
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book that gave me so many insights July 22 2009
By readernyc - Published on Amazon.com
That I lived in Jerusalem and not far from Aharon Appelfeld and read only other Israeli writers (the big 3: Oz, Grossman, and Yehoshua) and missed Applefeld is my great loss.

Reading this slim volume was a huge experience for me as Appelfeld's sensibility in this book gave me an entirely new 'take' on a country I thought I knew, but through his descriptions, I felt a whole new relation to Israel and the Shoah.

This book is both an easy and a profound read. Buy it. It's great.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aharon Appelfeld Under the Light of Jerusalem April 23 2012
By Sheila H. Mclaren - Published on Amazon.com
The title of this memoir by Aharon Appelfeld refers basically to his almost life-long practice of spending his working day in the cafes of Jerusalem, writing memoirs, short stories, novels, poetry.

In his usual gentle, under-stated style, he describes the many different cafes he has frequented through the years, together with the people he met in them. We get to understand how silent he was, how much he listened, and how he grew to appreciate and love many of the people. He writes about some of the reactions from other writers who could not understand his need to write in noisy, lively cafes while they could work only in solitude and silence - and often terrorized their families into the quietness so necessary to them. We learn the differences between the Jerusalem cafes of yesteryear (quiet, and now all gone) and today (noisy, with loud music), and that he still manages to find new and different ones in which to work. He quietly writes of the characteristics of the old cafes and of the various areas they served, and his pictures are alive so that even those who have never been in Jerusalem can get the feel of places and people. I found myself enjoying these pictures so much that I re-read them again and again, actually seeing Aharon Appelfield sitting at a table for one with his books and papers around him.

When he needed breaks he would go for walks, travelling on foot to many neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, clearly loving and enjoying them all, and being utterly fascinated by the characteristics of each. Sometimes he would walk "down to Meah Shearim. Here, Jewish history had been frozen within the clothes of the living. Since discovering this area, I would return there every week. It became one of my schools for Jews and Jewishness. Here I learned Yiddish from the mouths of young children and from the old people who sat in the synagogues and learned a page of Talmud with a chanting singsong. The sight of children studying like this - just as they learned throughout the generations in Europe - always moves me. In Meah Shearim, the Holocaust isn't mentioned, but it hovers constantly in the background, the warp of memory that begins in the early hours of the morning and carries on throughout the day, until late at night. Here, and perhaps only here, people speak, pray, and study exactly as they used to in the shtetls and cities of Eastern Europe. This act of preservation, even if it is bound up in routine and has some annoying aspects - still commands my respect."

I have quoted this tiny bit to indicate the beauty of Appelfeld's feelings and language, his spirit of tolerance, and his enduring need to return to the past, his past. All his work is an intertwining of past and present. A little later he writes these words, which will remain with me forever: "... everything Jewish is dear to me."

He mentions his wife and family, who at times visit him in his various cafes and then go for walks with him. And his re-discovered father who often joins him. Other writers visit, and also walk with him. He has many friends and acquaintances, but his entire life is bound up with the struggle of writing, and he talks of the place that Jerusalem has in his work: He realized in 1998 that when he was torn away in childhood from Czernowitz, the city of his birth, he had taken away all that he held dear and replanted it in Jerusalem. "It's a city that has given me more than a city usually gives. Everything that had been snatched away from me so brutally in my childhood - I would re-discover here in Jerusalem."

Yet he is not a religious Jew in the sense that this is usually meant. As much as he respects Jewish worship, he seldom attends synagogue. Yet he feels that his attitude to life is a religious one, in the sense of seriousness and a deep obligation to art: "I believe art is about creation - and not about the ego, or making an impression, or exuding a sense of superiority toward others. But it is all about calling forth feelings that connect with other people."

This entire book seems to be an inner conversation and reflection. It has left me filled with wonder that there are people who can write as Aharon Appelfeld does. I hope that I've conveyed at least some of the beauty within "A Table for One." It is well worth reading - again and again.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it Oct. 22 2012
By R. Berger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Everything this author has written is well worth reading. This little book is no exception. Sensitive, well-written, perceptive, enlightening insights into a fascinating but vanished time and place.
8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An illuminating book June 11 2005
By Jill Malter - Published on Amazon.com
This is a short but fascinating memoir by Aharon Appelfield, who moved to Jerusalem in 1946 and has lived there ever since. It is intriguingly illustrated with forty paintings by his son, Meir.

Appelfield was originally from Europe, and he was there at a very bad time. We learn from this book a little about what Europe still means to him, and what Israel and Jerusalem mean to him as well. And there is plenty about his reactions to Judaism and Jewish culture.

I recommend this book.

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