Holocaust novel wins British foreign fiction prize

"Blooms of Darkness" by Israeli Aharon Appelfeld awarded 2012 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize London ceremony.

May 14, 2012 21:31
1 minute read.
Concentration camp tower

Auschwitz 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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LONDON - The tale of an 11-year-old boy hidden from the Nazis by a prostitute has won a fiction prize which celebrates writing translated into English.

"Blooms of Darkness" by 80-year old Israeli Aharon Appelfeld was awarded the 2012 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize at a ceremony in London.

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It tells the story of Hugo, who is brought by his mother to a local brothel, and his deepening relationship with Mariana, one of the women who work there.

The book shows how the best of human nature can come to the surface even in the most horrific circumstances, Appelfeld said.

"I wanted to explore the darkest places of human behaviour and to show that even there, generosity and love can survive; that humanity and love can overcome cruelty and brutality.

The prize awards 5,000 pounds ($8,100) each to the author of the Hebrew work, and its translator Jeffrey M. Green.

"As the relationship between Hugo and Mariana evolves, this deceptively simple narrative does something extraordinary, carrying the reader to a liminal territory in which deep sensuality exists alongside unfathomable brutality," said Hephzibah Anderson, journalist and one of the prize's judges.


Born in 1932 in what is now Western Ukraine, Appelfeld was deported to a labor camp when he was seven years old.

He managed to escape, and was picked up by the Red Army in 1944, eventually making his way to Italy and finally reaching Palestine in 1946, aged 14.

At 80, Appelfeld is the oldest author to win the prize, following on from the youngest ever winner, Santiago Roncagliolo, who at 36 won the Prize last year.

The prize is run by the Booktrust, which is an independent reading and writing charity in Britain. Booktrust also present the Orange Prize for fiction, the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and others in an effort to promote reading and writing.

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