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The teenage Katerina flees her abusive home in a poor, Christian village in the 1880s, finding work and shelter in the home of a Jewish family, and in the warmth of their family life and beauty of their Jewish rituals she begins to know safety for the first time. Their life is brutally disrupted when a pogrom is wrought upon the family, and Katerina finds herself alone again. Decades later, having suffered and retaliated for that suffering, she looks out of the window of her prison cell and sees the trains carrying Jews across Europe.

Released from prison into the chaos following the end of World War II, a now elderly Katerina is devastated to find a world that has been emptied of its Jews and that is not at all sorry to see them gone. Ever the outsider, Katerina realizes that she has survived only to bear witness to the fact that they had ever existed at all.

A rare glimpse into Jewish and gentile life in Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century, Katerina explores the long origins of the Holocaust, alongside darkness and light, cruelty and mercy.


  • Read this book . . . Think what a gift of lyric language and style, of emotion purified by pain this is
    Anne Roiphe, Los Angeles Times

About the author

Aharon Appelfeld

Aharon Appelfeld authored more than 45 acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction and received many international awards including the MLA Commonwealth Award, the Independent Foreign Fiction prize, the prix Médicis étranger, the Israel prize, and the Nelly Sachs prize. Born in Czernowitz, Bukovina (now part of Ukraine) in 1932, he survived the Holocaust and passed away in Israel in 2018.
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