Until The Dawn’s Light

What has caught my attention the most at the moment about Appelfeld’s Until the Dawn’s Light is the way the story begins. As Miranda Burgess said in the lecture, the first chapter starts on a train and brings to mind the trains heading to concentration camps. Immediately the story seems to be about the holocaust even though it is set before the holocaust, and this theme and feeling of the approaching holocaust is constant throughout the whole novel with details as simple as having a character named Adolf. Appelfeld takes the terrible power and emotions of the holocaust and applies it in a context so similar to the holocaust that even though it’s indirect, it’s impossible not to notice it.

The other fascinating aspect of the beginning of the story is its style and presentation. Although it is consistently nonlinear and all the chapters are short, it is most jarring in the first few chapters. Details leak in small bits through short flashbacks and fragments of dialogue, and a great sense of foreshadowing is immediately created through Appelfeld’s precise control of the readers’ knowledge and understanding of the story, and this technique is most effective during the exposition of the narrative. The reader always has a hint of what is to come because of what precedes it, just like how we know the holocaust is coming given the setting of the story and the antisemitism in it.

3 thoughts on “Until The Dawn’s Light

  1. Danielle Tan

    Your comment on Appelfeld’s precise control of the readers’ knowledge is interesting. When I was reading the novel I certainly had a feeling that every moment described in the book, whether in the present or the past, had a deeper purpose and were put in that order for a reason.

    1. Griffin Anderson-Baier Post author

      I’m glad you felt that way too. I guess that kind of feeling of purpose is present in all fiction that’s worth reading.

  2. Christina Hendricks

    Really interesting post! I like what you say at the end about how the whole text takes place before the holocaust but in a way foreshadows it, like some aspects of the narrative at the beginning foreshadow what is to come. I was also fascinated with the beginning of the novel. You get a sense of dizzying movement, of not resting, of urgency, and of confusion (she is trying to not let on for Otto what is happening, exactly). But you kind of know what is happening when the narrative talks dramatically about Otto asking about his father, and then when Blanca says that she did it and she’s ready to submit to justice. It’s pretty clear at that point what has happened, I think. What’s interesting is that revealing this early on doesn’t harm the narrative, because it doesn’t depend on us wondering exactly what happened. It is instead about the process that can lead up to such a drastic action, and getting the audience to empathize with Blanca even in the face of her murder of her husband.


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