Ida Fink — the Polish author who died last month in Tel Aviv at the age of 89 — was a master at infusing moments and gestures with the looming violence and death of the Holocaust. Her largely autobiographical fiction focused of the lives of Jews in small Polish towns before, during and after Nazi occupation. In her typically very short stories we are presented with mere shards of experience in which the horror to come is seldom presented directly. Instead, prosaic objects and words become filled with meaning: A book that will never finish being read. A loud man who suddenly whispers. Fruits eaten well before they are ripe.
Fink was born in Zbaraz, Poland (now the Ukraine) in 1921. A gifted pianist, her conservatory studies were cut short by the outbreak of conflict between the Soviet Union and Germany as well as the subsequent Nazi occupation. She spent the first years of the war in the ghetto before escaping with the help of papers that identified her as Aryan. After the war she eventually made her way to Israel and spent years working at Yad Vashem, taking testimonies from other survivors. Her output in English includes the story collections “A Scrap of Time” and “Traces” as well as the novel “The Journey.” In 2008 Fink was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize and is spoken of as an equal to David Grossman, Aharon Appelfeld and other prominent writers who have focused on the Holocaust.