Until the Dawn’s Light by Aharon Appelfeld

Finally, a novel! Or not.

Reading Until the Dawn’s Light is an intense experience, and while I have thoughts on the content I feel they would be redundant, so I’ll comment instead on the style.

Appelfeld writes with such finesse. The short, nonlinear chapters do not at any point give the impression of nonlinearity–the novel is perfectly seamless. The major events of Blanca’s life are told in multiple stages, her formative experiences are gradually revealed, yet a grey sadness, indeed blankness, permeates the whole text. It seems that the more I read about Blanca, the less I knew about her, which was why the events of the climax were not jarring; at that point I already was unable to know anything she did. Her stories are mostly of confusion and pain and annihilation–what climax could properly conclude them? The form of the novel (especially one with bleakness, and especially one with such complex themes) demands a dramatic, symbolic finale.

Miranda Burgess’ comments about silence during her lecture gave voice to a phenomenon I feel has been pulsating quietly in most discussions and seminars I’ve attend. She talked about silence–how Blanca was repeatedly unable to adequately speak the words on her mind. Silence has been a recurring theme in this stream, with Kierkegaard and The Penelopiad and even in Plato. It seems absurd that we can only speak about silence, then, by discussing it. The course is so fast-paced and driven that sometimes it seems not enough time is given to absorbing the text.

1 thought on “Until the Dawn’s Light by Aharon Appelfeld

  1. Christina Hendricks

    I like the point here about a grey sadness or blankness permeating the text. I haven’t thought in depth yet about the style, but it is sparse and matter of fact, and in that sense, somewhat blank I suppose. When I read it a second time tomorrow (or as much of it as I can before seminar) I’ll be thinking in particular of the style, thanks to you prompting this.

    And I really appreciate your thoughts at the end here too. All we can talk about in regards to silence is that we can’t fully talk about it. But if we don’t talk about that at least, might we even recognize (at least as well) the existence and need for silence? If Kierkegaard didn’t write a good deal about things that can’t be said, might we have really gotten that point as well? It is paradoxical to some extent, but perhaps has value. But the point about going quickly in Arts One–that’s certainly true. It’s part of earning 18 credits for a class that only meets for about 5-6 hours a week! And we’ve tried to add a couple of two-week books this time, for things that we think are especially difficult to grasp in one week. But any of the books, really, could probably be discussed in two weeks or more.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *