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Tzili: The Story of a Life

by Aharon Appelfeld

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1356149,134 (3.32)6
A young Jewish girl survives the Holocaust living alone in the forest and among the gentile peasants she fears.
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English (2)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (6)
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On the first pages of Tzili: The Story of a Live the storyteller says that Tzili's life is hard and sad and possibly not worth telling -- a beginning that made me put the book aside for a few days after reading the first chapter while I decided whether I could get past this grim beginning and read on. But despite the unarguably difficult time Tzili has, a slow, dreamy early adolescent child in a family of examination-taking siblings, each of whom intends to raise their merchant family into a better social class, she nevertheless is so appealing that we want to find out what happens to her. When she is left behind, ostensibly to guard the family's possessions and protected by her dimness, when the family flees the approaching army and being sent to the camps, she seems ill-equipped to survive on her own, and thus doomed.

But she proves instinctively more clever than anyone imagined, and the book chronicles her wanderings and the various ploys that keep her going in a very dangerous world.

We aren't told when or where the story takes place -- there's very little background information about Tzili's world, in which the Jews are in constant distress, from struggling with the other residents, but also from their own precarious existence and fear of failure. For a wonderfully indeterminate view of this world alone, the novel is a bitter pleasure. The Dalya Bilu translation is both lovely and invisible.

  V.V.Harding | Apr 21, 2015 |
bizarre and ethereal
  melbafarm |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aharon Appelfeldprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bilu, DalyaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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A young Jewish girl survives the Holocaust living alone in the forest and among the gentile peasants she fears.

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