What has really impressed me about Appelfeld’s writing is the depth and complexity of his characters. Blanca’s character especially is so real that I often forget this is written in third-person. The novel seems more like her autobiography.
Appelfeld retells every little thought that goes through Blanca’s mind, almost like a stream of consciousness but it doesn’t feel forced at all. Her character is not static or one moment angry, one moment sad. What she feels is complicated and confusing, the way actual feelings are like. Her daily life and thoughts seem organic and very personal. The insight into Blanca’s character is so profound that it is not clear or easy to describe what she is like. The same way one cannot use three words to describe someone, people are more complicated than that. Blanca is Blanca, that is all. I am amazed at Appelfeld’s ability to create such a human-like character.
Blanca is my age for a lot of the book (she is 18-19 when she marries?). It is so strange to me that a 63-year-old man can make such an accurate and realistic portrayal of what is like to be young woman. I find I can relate to Blanca, which weirds me out because this is actually a 63 year-old man I am relating to. Appelfeld has never been an 18 year-old-girl or a daughter, so how does he know these things?
It is clear to me that Appelfeld truly understands the human condition and psyche since his characters have a level of complexity and authenticity I have never encountered before.
I like how you point out the personal feel about the characters in the novel. I feel the same way, that Appelfeld truly understands human nature to be able to create such compelling and relatable characters in simple prose.
I hadn’t really thought about it before, but you’re right that it could be surprising that a much older male could write so convincingly about a much younger female character. But I guess that’s part of being a good author, perhaps–being able to write characters that you yourself have not been (otherwise you’d just write the same basic character with different names!). Still, that I didn’t even think about it suggests that I felt it was convincing as well.
I also didn’t notice until Miranda pointed it out when we were talking about possible essay topics that this novel was written in the third person. That’s an interesting choice for a novel that is so much in the head of one of the characters. It’s a third person voice, but a first person perspective (at least much of the time; sometimes the narrator speaks about things that Blanca doesn’t know, such as that Otto doesn’t understand what she’s saying and doesn’t know what to say). I find the essay topic that asks about the difference between writing a narrative like this in first person (Atwood’s text, e.g.) and third person very thought-provoking. I’m not sure what I think about that yet, except that it does allow the author to go beyond what Blanca herself could know or think, at times.