Read Until the Dawn's Light by Aharon Appelfeld Jeffrey M. Green Online


From the award-winning, internationally acclaimed writer (“One of the best novelists alive” —Irving Howe): a Jewish woman marries a gentile laborer in turn-of-the-century Austria, with disastrous results.A high school honor student bound for university and a career as a mathematician, Blanca lives with her parents in a small town in Austria in the early years of the twentiFrom the award-winning, internationally acclaimed writer (“One of the best novelists alive” —Irving Howe): a Jewish woman marries a gentile laborer in turn-of-the-century Austria, with disastrous results.A high school honor student bound for university and a career as a mathematician, Blanca lives with her parents in a small town in Austria in the early years of the twentieth century. At school one day she meets Adolf, who comes from a family of peasant laborers. Tall and sturdy, plainspoken and uncomplicated, Adolf is unlike anyone Blanca has ever met. And Adolf is awestruck by beautiful, brilliant Blanca–even though she is Jewish. When Blanca is asked by school administrators to tutor Adolf, the inevitable happens: they fall in love. And when Adolf asks her to marry him, Blanca abandons her plans to attend university, converts to Christianity, and leaves her family, her friends, and her old life behind.Almost immediately, things begin to go horribly wrong. Told in a series of flashbacks as Blanca and her son flee from their town with the police in hot pursuit, the tragic story of Blanca’s life with Adolf recalls a time and place that are no more but that powerfully reverberate in collective memory....

Title : Until the Dawn's Light
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780805241792
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 240 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Until the Dawn's Light Reviews

  • Lorri
    2018-12-10 08:48

    Until the Dawn's Light, by Aharon Appelfeld is a book that takes place before World War II. As always, his books elicit emotions within me, due to his defining word-imagery.Of course, as a reader, I know the Holocaust will occur, but within the pages of the book, there is an underlying feeling, a foreshadowing, that something extremely horrendous is going to set itself against humanity, something brutal.Speaking of brutal, this is the first book of Appelfeld's I have read that encapsulates spousal abuse. And, he not only encapsulates it, but describes it with vivid and painful portraits.The book begins on a train ride with Blanca taking flight with her four-year old son. Her fleeing holds more than just wanting to escape her husband, she is fleeing for her son's safety, and hopes to make it to safety in a northern town which holds the morals, mores and convictions of her ancestral past. She is wanting to return to the foundations of Judaism that her parents avoided.Blanca was brought up in a secular environment, and her parents were not practicing Jews. She is a young Jewish woman, and a convert to Christianity. She has converted in order to marry a man named Adolph, who, despite is initial appearance is antisemitic (after reading several pages, I didn't find it coincidental that Appelfeld named him Adolph). Her family sees this as a positive step, and one that will yield acceptance within the Christian community. Things are not always what we expect, though, as the slim volume of this book presented to me.Adolph despises the Jews, and never lets Blanca forget it. He blames everything on his life situation on the Jews, but worse than that, he constantly abuses her, physically, mentally and emotionally. The abuse is horrific. Blanca is meek, and gives in to every brutal beating. She is essentially a slave to his every whim, every abusive word and every abusive act forced upon her, until the day she leaves with her son. On the train ride she thinks back to the past, the days of happiness, the days of horror, and writes of issues that have caused her to run. She verbalizes to her son the fact that she wants him to save the pages, save them and read them at a later time, when he is old enough to read and understand. That is another foreshadowing of events and the ending, which this reader grasped upon immediately beginning the book.Until the Dawn's Light is not a happy read, but one that is depressing due to the content. There is much to ponder within the compelling pages, such as the primary issue of spousal abuse and how it causes fear in the abused, fear so strong they don't fight back or cry out for help. Fear that keeps the victim oppressed and in prisons that are difficult to fathom.Other relevant issues such as conversion and acceptance are a constant within the pages. The community of Christians was not the safe hold Blanca thought it would be, and the hatred and resentment of the Jews was quite clearly stated.Blanca had so much going for her, she was extremely intelligent and headed for university. She was a math wizard and had hopes of becoming a mathematician. The day she meets Adolph and begins tutoring him, was the beginning of the end for her. She fell for him, which is no surprise due to his superficial presentation of himself to her in order to gain favor.Aharon Appelfeld's Until the Dawn's Light, is aptly titled. His writing is brilliant within the darkness of the story line. He illuminates the past and how it can lead to the decisions of the present. He vividly relays how dismissal of the Jewish identity, and the resulting experiences of assimilation can lead one back to the religion they left behind. I recommend Until the Dawn's Light to everyone. It is thought=provoking and compelling, and offers a lot to ponder.

  • Bandit
    2018-11-26 08:26

    Happiness, nice as it is, isn't necessarily conducive to great literature. There is just about nothing happy about the terrible plight of the Jews in Europe a century ago, or plight of women for that matter. And so this book was very very sad. There is a general ambiance of thorough helplessness that Appelfeld has conveyed very well here. What can I do...seems to be the motto of the lives governed by lack of choices or tragically terrible choices. Blanca makes the latter and finds herself in a horribly abusive marriage to a crude Austrian peasant. She tries to assimilate, even converts, but she's delicate, intelligent and clearly isn't meant for this sort of life. Tragedies continue to befall her, it's a stunningly bleak hopeless life with only bright exception being her young son. When she finally makes a choice to do something about her life, it results in a tragedy as well. The writing was lovely and the book sped by, at just about 3 hours, but (and this is in no way to underestimate the staggering anti-Semitism & misogyny of yesteryears) almost everyone in the book is either has a very strong victim mentality or narrow minded country peasant mentality. It would be nice to see some deviations or variations or nuances. Another tragedy (and really a major theme throughout the book)is witnessing the Jewish population's tumultuous relationship with their faith, exemplified best by the fact that a nice, highly intelligent Jewish girl with promising future throws it all away on an overdeveloped physically and underdeveloped mentally, angry, abusive anti Semite. food for thought, certainly. Very sad book.

  • Sue Mouchantat
    2018-11-30 03:48

    Read this book for a book club. I found it to be the most depressing book I've ever read. I kept hoping something would change to make me enjoy it but that never happened. I only finished the story because I wanted to be able to contribute to the book club's conversation. I immediately started another book to clear my head of this story.

  • Alison
    2018-11-20 08:28

    This was an oddly compelling novel with a predictable plot and stark, unadorned language. (It was originally written in Hebrew.) In turn-of-the century Austria, a brilliant young Jewish woman converts to Christianity to marry a brutish (and anti-Semitic) high school classmate. Her husband treats her with increasing cruelty until the inevitable happens, and Clara (a maddeningly passive personality) is forced to flee. The story is told in simple, declarative sentences. Although I suspected exactly where the plot was heading, I kept reading because I was fascinated by the portrayal of Clara’s longing to reconnect with her parents and their religion.

  • Paula Margulies
    2018-12-01 05:28

    A dark and somewhat sad tale of an abused Jewish woman who suffers physically and mentally at the hands of her gentile husband in turn-of-the-century Austria. Although a little is lost in the translation from the Hebrew by Jeffrey Green, the language is still poetic and the story is compelling. Not an easy read, but one that delivers until the end. I was a little confused by the main character's final action in the last few pages, but enough has happened to her up to that point, I suppose, to make any decision she undertakes seem justified.

  • Louise Silk
    2018-12-08 04:33

    This was an interesting story of a disenfranchised woman who never finds her place. Blanca is born a Jew in a place where prejudice is rampant- early 20th century Austria. She converts and marries an awful prejudice gentile who makes her life absolutely miserable as she comes to understand it is impossible for to escape from her heritage and her family. Her heroics to save herself and her child become so sadly misguided that it is difficult to read, even as the reader knows she is heading down the wrong path. It is a well-told very deterministic sad story with little hope.

  • Nicole
    2018-12-01 06:36

    Such a sad book. Just sad.

  • Pam
    2018-12-01 04:55

    very depressing.

  • Kurt Albert
    2018-11-23 04:42

    Is it with the Birkat ha-Minim: "For apostates [meshumaddim] let there be no hope", in mind that Aharon Appelfeld wrote this book and not only as a reflection on the coming Shoah (the story is situated in the early 20th century). Another book 'The Conversion' of his has the same view.Because this was the feeling I got immediatly after closing the book. There is no hope here.The question is why?Because of the betrayal of Self by Blanca. But maybe it is not hope that is lacking with Blanca but a spirit of revolt. The story has a lot of travel by train...and as I once heard "If you are committing 'a sin' you get on a train..and in the beginning it goes slowly but every time you add 'a sin' it fastens..and the question arises..will you ever get off?" What is Blanca's sin? Her conversion? I do not agree with that vision! For me it is the fact that she does not stand up against Adolf (and it is all in the name here)!

  • Kimberly Greenwald
    2018-11-18 08:48

    Very sad!!!!

  • kp
    2018-12-01 07:53

    a strange, sad, brutal book about a lost woman in which Appelfeld mercilessly depicts the early twentieth-century anti-semitism that would coax Europe's spiteful prejudices into a conflagration

  • Ktphd1
    2018-12-01 09:41

    Set in early 1900's Austria, this poetically written morality tale deals with the weighty issues of loss of faith among many Austrian Jews, anti-Semitism (amongst Jews and non Jews), the conversion of Jews to Christianity in order to seek acceptance and belonging, the abandoning of family and traditions in hopes of assimilating into Christian society, and the pervasive terror of societally sanctioned brutality that presaged the Holocaust."Adolph sat in his seat and Blanca [his converted wife] served him dinner. But then, in the middle of the meal, his expression changed. He told her that two Jews had recently bought the dairy and that they wanted to lengthen the workday. The workers had declared a strike, and they were planning to attack the owners. Adolf despised Jews in general, but this time he was able to articulate his animosity. 'We'll eliminate them,' he said, his mind finally at rest." p.196 This deceptively 'short' story packs a wallop of a long lasting impression. Not only does it heartbreakingly describe the disastrous emotional consequences of conversion Diaspora; the amputated, scattering away from the religious beliefs of the "faith of their ancestors" (p.158), but it tragically implies that for the protagonist Blanca, (whose name seems reminiscent of the originally Jewish Synagogue Santa Maria la Blanca, seized and converted into a Christian Church during the Spanish Inquisition), that once abandoned, the only way back to Jewish roots (i.e. heimland or homeland") is through death."Where are we going, Mama"? he kept asking."To the north.""Is it far from here?""Not very.""Is the north in the country or in the city?""The north is up above, my dear." (p.3)

  • Dov Zeller
    2018-12-08 03:55

    Blanca, born Jewish in pre-war Germany, converts to Christianity with the approval of her parents who are themselves alienated from Judaism, in order to marry a caricatured brute named Adolf. When the novel begins Blanca is on the run with her young son after a catastrophic event, going North, going toward an ideal, fantastical, safe home. The novel explores questions of religiosity and cultural senses and ideals and identity; questions about education, intellectual identity, kinds of feeling, ways of relating to the self and others within a larger cultural setting in which there is an attempt to segregate qualities of feeling and work according to what is and isn't German and therefore what is and is not Jewish. The novel is also concerned with power, destruction, love, friendship and isolation. There is a full atmospheric quality to the novel in the sense that it draws out and draws on the atmosphere of the main character's emotional experiences and sense of the world. The unreality and stark realities of living imprisoned by circumstances, one's own troubled relationship to identity, is in here in beautiful ways. There is a quality of summary that is frustrating for me at times, a feeling of narrowness, thin vision of character and mood that does shift sometimes, and may be building toward a cloistered feeling, cloistered and trapped and living in an animal fear, but for me it makes parts of the book, moments and characters fall into the realm of the symbolic -- at times I felt I was listening in on a kind of repetitive, moralizing lecture but I couldn't quite say on what, which is what brings it always back to life.

  • Patricia O'Sullivan
    2018-11-30 01:53

    Blanca Guttman is a promising high school student when she is assigned to tutor Adolf Hammer, a Christian from a working-class family. Attracted by Adolf’s need for her, Blanca falls for him and agrees to convert and marry rather than attend university. Adolf’s robust Austrian family dislikes Blanca’s slight frame, her mother’s chronic illness, and her father’s profession as a book seller. Adolf convinces Blanca to distance herself from her family and begins to beat her in an attempt to toughen her up. But when her mother dies and Adolf convinces Blanca to put her fifty-three year old father in a nursing home, Blanca realizes that she has given up far too much. She considers leaving Adolf only to discover that she is pregnant and condemned to live in the prison of her marriage forever.This is a beautifully written, yet sad tale of a vulnerable girl whose story sheds light on the condition of European Jews a generation following the Jewish Enlightenment. Blanca is young and impressionable. Her parents, while providing a loving home, possess little direction or confidence to pass on to their daughter. Consequently, Blanca’s adult life is a daze of confusion and despair. She cannot change enough to please Adolf just as the Jews could never assimilate enough to gain the acceptance of their Christian neighbors. In contrast to Blanca, Adolf’s hard-drinking and Jew-hating rages make him seem driven with purpose. Ahron Appelfeld’s simple, yet dramatic story translated by Jeffrey Green is a superb tale with poignant lessons about identity and legacy.

  • Sue Ann Painter
    2018-11-27 02:45

    Beautifully written morality tale. The lovely and much abused heroine is reminiscent of Thomas Hardy's buffeted and ruined maidens. Indeed, the author's style and heavy symbolism recall turn- of- the last century British literature. Appelfeld explores how opposites attract, come together, and revert to their "natural" order. Blanca gravitates toward the physical strength and moral conviction she and her parents lack. Adolf initially covets her intellect and sensitivity. But he quicky grows into a brutish, bigoted dullard, intent on destroying the spirit and body of his enslaved wife. The outcome is predictable, but the author's poetic narration is compelling. Blanca's flight with her four-year-old son is the heart of the novel. The culmination comes too quickly to be persuasive despite the early and heavy-handed clues of mental illness (or are is Grandma the only sane and saintly one) in Blanca's family. Maybe not for everyond, but I found the novella an easy, quick, and rewarding read.

  • Judy
    2018-12-16 05:49

    This is a well written novel by a world renowned writer, however, its subject matter is so depressing that I can give it only a 3 star rating. It is set in Austria in the early 1900s when a young woman in a small town converts from Judaism to Christianity to marry her very large/tall/broad/dumb schoolmate whom she tutored (without success). Blanca is beaten by her husband Adolph and it seems that this is the normal treatment of women among the peasants. Blanca is frail, works hard to keep the house spotless and food on the table and she is semi-crazy. Her infant son, Otto, is also frail. I was about to stop reading when an event occurred that had me curious as to how the book would end. There is much in the book about the mass conversions of Jews to Christianity as a form of survival for the Jew and of a shame felt by Jews to be Jews, and of the Christians not being able to accept the Jews as Christians but continuing to harbor resentment towards the ex-Jews. I wished that Blanca had lived up to her potential, but then, how many of us do so?

  • Grace Ita
    2018-12-04 08:31

    Started out boring, but becomes interesting as the main character (can't remember her name) is persecuted for her faith and family values by her once beloved husband. Oh! the nerves the husband has to put her through that hell just aggravates one's inner-being. Moreso, the stupidity, naivity, and overly passive nature of the wife, further makes the reader cringe on the inside, and long for her day of vindication. You can only push a frustrated woman thus far, after a while, she'll turn into a wild animal and seek revenge in the most in-human way, while protecting what she values the most in her life...her only son.

  • Jean Kelly
    2018-12-12 06:42

    A moving story of a young boy and his mother in an Austria village where Jews were so assimilated that the synagogue was no longer functioning. The road to any success included conversion and yet those converted were still seen as Jews by the gentiles in power and by the peasants.Great sadness and despair in the story of a young woman who converts and then spends her marriage being bullied by her brutish husband and his family. Her heroics to safeguard her son are moving and unsettling. She is a lost soul who Appelfeld compassionately describes.

  • Angela
    2018-11-20 06:48

    This was an interesting book. Oddly compelling. It was written in Hebrew and translated into English. This made for some unusual sentence structure and word choices. It was difficult to read for both the unusualness of the sentence structure as well as for the content. I read it fast and couldn't put it down, yet struggled. Not a light book. I give it only three stars because it was difficult to read and because the subject matter is pretty hard as well. It is a well written book and worth the read, if you are able.

  • Julie
    2018-12-02 01:54

    While a quick read, this certainly isn't an easy topic. I'm not sure I can recommend the book but I really did appreciate reading and discussing it. Taking place at the beginning of the 1900s in Austria, it tells the story of a Jewish girl, Blanca, and her and her community's tragic assimilation into the Christian world. Written in a very sparse style, it builds to a suspenseful, disastrous climax. It brings up many issues of Jewish identity during pre-world war times.

  • Jennifer Glick
    2018-11-28 01:49

    Lost in translation? I, like some other readers, read this book for a book group. I don't know if something got lost in translation from the Hebrew, but I found this book to be overwhelmingly depressing with no real explanation as to the motives of the characters other than self-destruction. If it was written as a morality tale, the fact that it smacked us in the face with its message detracted from my appreciation of the book. I really wanted to like the book, but just couldn't.

  • Mich
    2018-12-14 04:29

    Taughtly written tragic story of Jewish woman in Eastern Europe before WWII who converts and marries Adolph, an absolute lout. He beats her and she succumbs to his cruelties. Finally she escapes with her son.

  • Melanie Shapiro
    2018-12-17 02:44

    This story was dark, desperate without respite. It illustrates how Anti-semitism crushed the souls and spirits of European Jews decades before the Holocaust began. It is (thankfully) a quick read, but one that is provocative and worth engaging in.

  • Sharon
    2018-12-08 02:44

    Very very sad and difficult book to read about a horribly abused women. Engrossing and tragic tale of Jews who converted to Christianity at the turn of the century with the hope of a less tumultuous life. Unfortunately the heroines tale is so painful it is hard to comprehend.

  • Amy M
    2018-12-12 09:34

    This book dragged for me, but I kept on going. Uneventful for most of the book until the end when there is a big twist. I am sure there was something lost in the translation, but didn't take much away from this except sadness.

  • Leora Wenger
    2018-11-17 01:34

    Like Appelfeld's other books, Until the Dawn's Light has premonitions of the Holocaust. What is new in this novel is the theme of spousal abuse and the woman becoming the criminal in the eyes of society.

  • Kristen Iworsky
    2018-12-14 09:50

    This was translated (I think from Hebrew). Someone mentioned before they felt that a lot was lost in the translation, and I agree. I enjoyed it, but felt as though a lot was missing in the descriptions and development of the plot.

  • Torey
    2018-11-17 08:27

    i don't know what to think!the various possible allegories are mind-boggling.definitely a good read, and i'd be interested in seeing some scholarly/literary analysis, or even discussing with others who've read it.

  • Judith
    2018-11-25 05:40

    This was the best written book, that I have ever hated. If the translation to english is this good; I cannot imagine how good it must be for Hebrew readers.

  • Edward
    2018-12-01 08:29

    A simple yet rich story filled with subtle (and at times not so subtle) symbolism. Overall, very enjoyable.