Acclaimed Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld, "who wrote disturbing, obliquely told stories of self-deluded Jews slowly awakening to the reality of the Holocaust," died January 4, the New York Times reported. He was 85. Appelfeld "told his stories from a seemingly naïve eye, a baffled child's eye, working by indirection and intimation.... people wrestled with the banalities of daily life as ominous events were apprehended like distant thunder, lending his narrative the absurdist quality of a Beckett play or the chill of a Kafka story."
He published books in Hebrew every couple of years, and at least 16 novels were translated into English from 1981 to 2011, the Times noted. Appelfeld's works include Badenheim 1939, which the critic Irving Howe called "a small masterpiece," The Age of Wonders, To the Land of the Cattails, The Immortal Bartfuss, For Every Sin, and The Skin and the Gown. Schocken will publish The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping January 31, and To the Edge of Sorrow in January 2019.
A major figure in the group of Israeli writers that included Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua and David Grossman, Appelfeld was described by Philip Roth as a "displaced writer of displaced fiction who has made of displacement and disorientation a subject uniquely his own." Critic Eva Hoffman wrote, "In his call to break the concealed silence, he has courageously begun to illuminate regions of the soul usually darkened by secrecy and sorrow."
Appelfeld's many honors include the 1983 Israel Prize for literature, the 1989 National Jewish Book Award for fiction and the Prix Médicis Étranger. His novel Blooms of Darkness was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2013. In 1997, he was appointed a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.