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Aharon Appelfeld wins Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

15th May 2012

The 2012 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize has been won by Holocaust survivor Aharon Appelfeld for his semi-autobiographical novel Blooms of Darkness.

At 80 years old, Appelfeld because the oldest ever winner of the GBP 10,000 prize, which is shared equally with Jeffrey M. Green, translator of the English version of the book.

It tells the story of an 11-year-old boy who escapes the clutches of the Nazis during World War II and is kept safe in the ghetto by a prostitute until the conflict is over.

Appelfeld based the plot partly on his own experiences of the war, when he was sent to the Transnistria labour camp at the age of eight after his mother was murdered by Romanian troops and his father was sent to a refugee camp in Be'er Tuvia.

He managed to escape the camp three years later and was picked up by the Red Army in 1944, before finally making his way to Palestine in 1946, where he has reunited with his father and began to learn Hebrew, soon becoming an established writer.

Speaking of the novel, Appelfeld said he was keen to highlight how it is possible to triumph even in the face of the greatest adversity.

'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,' he added.

Upon receiving his GBP 5,000 prize, Green was keen to praise the author's source material.

'Clearly, if Blooms of Darkness had not been excellent, even an excellent translation would not have won this prize, but a bad translation would certainly have destroyed the excellence of the original,' he continued.

Appelfeld follows in the footsteps of Santiago Roncagliolo, who won the 2011 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for Red April, translated by Edith Grossman.

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