“In 1941, when Appelfeld was nine years old, the Romanian army invaded his home village of Jadova, near Czernowitz. His mother and grandmother were shot. Appelfeld and his father escaped but were soon rounded up and marched, over two months, to the Transnistria concentration camps, where they were separated. Once again Appelfeld escaped. He spent the next two years hiding in the forest, doing odd jobs for a group of prostitutes and thieves. When the Soviet army arrived, in 1944, he joined them as a kitchen boy and eventually made his way, via Italy and Yugoslavia, to Israel. In 1960, he discovered that his father had also survived and come to Israel, and the two were reunited.
The story of Appelfeld’s survival is told in his memoir, The Story of a Life (1999). The war years have also provided material for the majority of his novels, including The Age of Wonders (1978), Tzili (1983), and the book for which he is best known abroad, Badenheim 1939 (1975).
So you come here to work at Ticho House twice a week?
Yes. I come here somewhere around ten or eleven. I stay here for two or three hours and then I go home. It’s a routine. Generally, when we say routine, it sounds bad, but routine is important.
You write longhand. How many pages per day?
One page, sometimes half a page, sometimes one and a half pages. I stop when I am tired—when I do not see more, when I do not hear more.
Then you go home and read what you’ve done?
Yes, in the late afternoon, after I have had my lunch, I spend another two hours on the same pages, then I leave it. I used to type them. I liked to type them very much. Suddenly you see there is something you have done. It was a joy. But now a woman comes to my house and I dictate. My old typewriter doesn’t work anymore.
You don’t use the computer?
No, I like the paper. Writing, like every art, is a sensual art. You have to touch it, you have to feel it, to correct, again to correct, always to correct.”