“I’m not looking at Aharon…”
“He’s looking at you.”
It’s not often that professors of literature have a chance to speak about a writer’s work in front of him. This interchange between Iris Milner, of Tel Aviv University, and Yigal Schwartz of Ben Gurion University of the Negev, took place at the International Conference on the Life and Work of Aharon Appelfeld held October 26 and 27 at the University of Pennsylvania. The conference was co-sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program, the Kelly Writers House, the Middle East Center and the Research Institute for Jewish and Israeli literature and Culture at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. It brought together scholars from Israel, the U.S. and France to discuss Appelfeld, author of some 40 books, on the cusp of his 80th birthday.
Appelfeld mostly listened, but also read from his memoir in Hebrew and held a public conversation with Nili Gold, an Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature and one of the four conference organizers. He told the audience that his second grade studies were conducted in the home of a prostitute with whom he sought shelter after fleeing the Nazis in his hometown of Czernowitz, Romania at age 8.