Laish (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
In Aharon Appelfeld’s Laish, a young orphan, probably in his early teens, tells the story of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem by a group consisting partly of elderly, devout Jews. A number of merchants, called “dealers,” are also included in the wagons that wend their slow and weary way from the Carpathian Mountains in Eastern Europe to a port on the Black Sea. There, the group plans to take ship for Palestine and their final destination: the holy city of Jerusalem. Women and children, apparently the wives and offspring of some of the men, make up the rest of the entourage.
The time of the pilgrimage is indeterminate but most likely it begins near the end of the nineteenth century and originates in the Ukraine. The convoy travels for a considerable time along the Prut River, which borders Romania and what is now Moldava. Progress is very slow. En route, the dealers trade and bargain with the peasants and townspeople they encounter, whereas the old men spend time studying Torah and praying. Old Avraham takes Laish (from the Hebrew word for “lion”) under his wing. He teaches the boy to pray and impresses on him the importance of study.
The pilgrimage is nothing if not dangerous. Not only are the wagons frequently beset by thieves, but also the dealers transport contraband and accordingly have to evade the legal authorities. Money passes from hand to hand and is sewn into the men’s coats for safekeeping. As Laish describes the...
(The entire section is 1322 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Forward 112 (March 20, 2009): 11.
Kirkus Reviews 77, no. 1 (January 1, 2009): 3.
New York Times Book Review, March 29, 2009, p. 6.
Publishers Weekly 256, no. 2 (January 12, 2009): 30.
World Literature Today 69 (Spring, 1995): 427.
(The entire section is 21 words.)