Friday, June 15, 2012

The Conversion - Aharon Appelfeld

Aharon Appelfeld’s novels are excruciating to read, and The Conversion is no different.  Once again Appelfeld returns to the theme of Christianity, this time in the context of a spate of conversions of prominent members of a provisional Austrian city between the wars.  Karl converts after his parents die to further his career, and the inevitable occurs: he is no longer accepted by the Jewish community, and the motives of his conversion are viewed as suspect by Christians.

So, Karl wanders between worlds, feeling increasingly alienating, drifting down the scales of Austrian society until he finds himself at the inevitable point of his own destruction.  In my opinion, this happens a bit abruptly, and the end therefore has the feeling that Appelfeld could have done more work, but found no other solutions for the narrative problems he had created.  In the end, he had to do it as he did, no matter how unsatisfying. 

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