All Whom I Have Loved

  • Review
By – December 9, 2011

There are those who will read All Whom I Have Loved and remark that this, Appelfeld’s most recent nov­el, res­onates with scenes from The Sto­ry of a Life pub­lished in 2004. Oth­ers will argue that this nov­el is writ­ten, as all of his oth­ers, in the same poignant, min­i­mal­ist style for which he has become known. And, there are still more who would con­tend that in this nov­el, Appelfeld con­cen­trates on the time peri­od just pri­or to World War II, on bur­geon­ing anti-Semi­tism, and on the strug­gle of Paul Rosen­feld, a nine-yearold boy in an uncom­pro­mis­ing world. In fact, the nov­el is all this and more.

As with all Appelfeld’s nov­els, there are sub­tle sub­texts wor­thy of men­tion. Paul’s phys­i­cal jour­neys, tedious and trau­mat­ic, trig­ger his ten­u­ous emo­tions. Because his par­ents are divorced, his rela­tion­ship with each is trou­bled: his feel­ings for his moth­er are oedi­pal and for his father judg­men­tal and crit­i­cal. Nev­er far from the sur­face is Paul’s curios­i­ty about Judaism and his con­fu­sions about the sec­u­lar world. In pre­sent­ing Paul’s par­ents as orphans, Appelfeld alludes to the Jew­ish oblig­a­tion to care for aban­doned chil­dren. In the end, Paul is also orphaned, which suc­ceeds in illus­trat­ing the effects of sep­a­ra­tion and remote­ness on the life of a nine-year-old asth­mat­ic Jew­ish boy.

Home” is an unsta­ble place, some­times even a fig­ment of Paul’s imag­i­na­tion; dis­place­ment, on the oth­er hand, with its shift­ing pat­terns, locales, and peo­ple, are his real­i­ty. The nov­el, then, is as the title sug­gests: a sto­ry of all whom (Appelfeld, per­haps) has loved. It is a sto­ry of loss and lone­li­ness and of mat­u­ra­tion and des­ti­tu­tion. And, as Paul remarks, it is not real­ly about a jour­ney so much as it was about being pulled away from everything…”

Malv­ina D. Engel­berg, an inde­pen­dent schol­ar, has taught com­po­si­tion and lit­er­a­ture at the uni­ver­si­ty lev­el for the past fif­teen years. She is a Ph.D. can­di­date at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Miami.

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