This memoir had me at foreword. Two things were clear from the start, that Appelfeld is an outstanding writer and that the story of his life is one of a kind. Why one of a kind? Not just because it is a story of an orphan who survived against impossible odds and a man who had lost all he has known and loved but because it somehow something more than that, a tale of humanity and hope.
I had read this book few months ago and it took me less then a day, starting to read it in the afternoon and finishing it book about 3 a.m . Enough said. I couldn't put it down despite the fact that it (being the middle of a night and wintertime) had been freezing.
The author tells his life from his first memories. He is not always chronological nor does he always goes into detail. There are things, events and emotion he doesn't want to (or cannot) talk about yet this book feels like the most complete memoir I have ever read (and it happens to be the best).
That made me think...Perhaps it is not always best to talk about everything, I know it seems to be a popular opinion with today's psychology but somethings cannot be overcome when you are barely hanging on your sanity... He tells about people who survived the worst tragedies only to be confronted with merciful questions and that left me wondering... Should we question people or let them open up first? These are some hard questions. At times it is necessary to get into something and at other times it is better to leave matters at rest...until we find the strength to deal with them.
Appelfeld found a way to talk about war in a way I quite frankly never thought possible. He doesn't try to hide its horrors but he doesn't brood over them as well. He is never sentimental yet he is always warm. This is after all a memoir of a survivor, someone who had not physically or psychologically beaten. He also focused on particular terrible aspect of any war and that is that post-war times when all the human vices seem to come on surface. You think that the worst thing about war is the war itself. You'd be wrong. Post-war times when heroes are too tired or dead and everyone is devastated is when it all really goes to hell. That was the most difficult thing to read about: tales of children being molested and taken away by smugglers.
There is a great deal more that can be said about The Story of a Life. The writer explores many issues and dilemmas, both personal and collective. His talk about languages I found particularly fascinating perhaps because linguistics is my area. He talks about finding himself in Israel, alone, orphaned, and the sadness that accompanied the loss of his mother tongue (German) and the same time frustration that followed his inability to learn Hebrew , or perhaps better to say great difficulty because he eventually did learn it. I just felt my heart has gone out to him at every stage of the book and I'm absolutely amazed that someone who has gone trough so much has so much tenderness and love inside.
Most touching, warm, honest and complete memoir I have ever read. Absolutely one of those life changing books.