Though for survivors of the Holocaust the desire to forget must be strong, most have come to recognize the need never to forget and to conduct their lives accordingly. This conflict between desire and need is the focus of Appelfeld's latest work. Theo Braun, a young survivor of the camps, is determined to leave his experience behind, to isolate himself from his fellow refugees and return on foot to his home near Vienna. Whatever his intentions, he finds himself drawn, almost mothlike, back to the campfires, coffee, and companionship of other survivors. As he wrestles with his conflicting feelings, he slowly comes to realize that returning ``home'' is impossible and that as a survivor he is under an obligation to help his ``miserable brethren,'' to ``do as much good as possible.'' Succinct and affecting; essential for collections of serious fiction.-- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
As in Appelfeld's earlier novels of alienation set during and after the Holocaust ( Badenheim 1939 ; To the Land of the Cattails ), this narrative portrays a man cruelly deprived of will and emotional clarity. Theo, plodding home across Europe after four years in the death camps, is stunned and lifeless, a condition reflected in Appelfeld's deliberately unadorned prose. Remote memories propel Theo toward Baden-bei-Wein--his mother, the chapels they once visited, the cafes and art galleries--and send him scuttling past clusters of refugees who beseech him to stop. He notices neither cold nor hunger, but, yearning for coffee and cigarettes, finally pauses when they are offered and finds himself not many miles from where he began. Like his thoughts, his feet have traveled in circles, pursued by visions he cannot escape. Eventually he understands that he must join those other refugees who ``stretch out their hands . . . to the miserable brethren scattered on the deserted roads.'' At the end of this slim narrative, Theo has tentatively rejoined the company of the survivors, who ``can't bring the dead back to life . . . but can at least say `we're together.' '' (May)