November Reading Group Selection

Book Beat’s November Reading Group Selection is Badenheim 1939 by Aharon Appelfeld. The Reading Group will meet at the Goldfish Teahouse (117 W 4th St #101 in downtown Royal Oak) on Wednesday, November 20 at 7pm. Books are discounted 15% at Book Beat. All are welcome!

“First published in english in 1980, Badenheim 1939 depicts a small resort town outside Vienna whose usual summer vacationers, middle-class Jews, find themselves held prisoner at their own resort on the eve of WWII. Rumors of war rumble into the resort town, while the characters struggle to convince themselves that everything is perfectly normal. The vacationers arrive as they always have, a sampling of Jewish middle-class life: the impresario Dr. Pappenheim, his musicians, and their conductor; the gay Frau Tsauberblit; the historian, Dr. Fussholdt, and his much younger wife; the “readers,” twins whose passion for Rilke is featured on their program; a child prodigy; a commercial traveler; a rabbi. To receive them in the town are the pharmacist and his worried wife, the hotelier and his large staff, the pastry shop owner and his irritable baker, Sally and Gertie (two quite respectable prostitutes), and, mysteriously, the bland inspectors from the “Sanitation Department.”

“As real as Kafka’s unnamed Prague . . . imbued with a Watteau-like melancholy.”
—Gabriel Annan, New York Review of Books

“Magical . . . gliding from a kind of romantic realism into universal allegory.”
—Peter Prescott, Newsweek

“The sorcery of Badenheim 1939 [lies in] the success with which the author has concocted a drab narrative involving rather ordinary characters and made their experienced profoundly symbolic yet never hollow.”
—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times

“The writing flows seamlessly …a small masterpiece.”
—Irving Howe, New York Times Book Review

Aharon Appelfeld is one of Israel’s foremost living Hebrew language authors, despite the fact that he did not learn the language until he was a teenager. He is the author of many critically-acclaimed novels and short stories. Most of his work focuses on Jewish life in Europe before, during and after World War II. As an orphan from a young age, the search for a mother figure is central to his work. During the Holocaust he was separated from his father, and only met him again 20 years later. Silence, muteness and stuttering are motifs that run through much of Appelfeld’s work. Disability becomes a source of strength and power. Phillip Roth described Appelfeld as “a displaced writer of displaced fiction, who has made of displacement and disorientation a subject uniquely his own.”

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