In Aaron’s Leap, Magdaléna Platzová tells the stories of various artistic characters whose lives intimately connect over the span of a century. The book centers around the story of Berta Altmann, a victim of the Holocaust, whose brash art and modern lifestyle inspire a present-day Israeli film crew who create a documentary about her life. Two members of the crew, Melina and Aaron, are attracted to each other and have an affair despite Aaron’s disclosure that he has recently fallen in love.
Melina learns more about Berta’s life through her diaries, which were given to Melina’s grandmother, Kristýna, before Berta was transported to Terezín and eventually murdered at Auschwitz. Berta’s life, before and even during the war is filled with modernism and new twentieth-century ideas, from her love affairs to her interest in modern art. Berta struggles with issues of feminism; she wants to be independent and concentrate on her art, but she also feels like a failure as a woman for choosing to have abortions from her affairs instead of marrying and having a child. Excerpts from her diaries are interspersed throughout the book.
The story is told from the various characters’ perspectives and frequently switches time periods. These changes can be confusing at times but they create a fluidity between the lives of these characters and their relations with each other.
Platzova’s mulit-dimensonal characters come to life through their struggles to understand the purpose of art and the political opinions of the people around them in a time of war and uncertainty. Art and modern thought are at the center of these characters’ lives and they seek truth through art, love, and friendship, inviting the reader to join them on this journey of self-discovery.
Jamie Wendt is the author of the poetry collection Fruit of the Earth, published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company (2018) and winner of the 2019 National Federation of Press Women Book Award. Her poetry has been published in various literary journals and anthologies, including Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility, Lilith, Raleigh Review, Minerva Rising, Third Wednesday, and Saranac Review. Her essays and book reviews have been published in Green Mountains Review, the Forward, Literary Mama, and others. She holds an MFA from the University of Nebraska Omaha. She teaches high school English and lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.