ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY ONE

From Aharon Appelfeld:

INTERVIEWER
The German spoken by your parents, you said later, was similar to the German of Franz Kafka.

APPELFELD
Yes, Franz Kafka—of all the writers, Franz Kafka. When I read him, he was immediately familiar to me.

INTERVIEWER
So you had a secular upbringing but with some knowledge of religion from your grandparents?

APPELFELD
Yes, I was very close to my maternal grandparents. My grandfather taught me a lot. To give you an example, he used to get up in the morning and pray, but before praying he would open the windows. He said to me, There should not be a barrier between us and God. If the windows are closed and the shutters are closed you cannot speak directly to God. This was something I will not forget. I’ll give you another example. He used to touch every object with great care. I am not just speaking about books. Hebrew books he used to kiss before opening and after closing the book, but he had care for everything— glasses and bottles, for instance.

INTERVIEWER
Why?

APPELFELD
Because they have something of the holy.

INTERVIEWER
Of the holy?

APPELFELD
Yes. You know, God is everywhere. He is in the human heart. He is in the plants. He is in the animals. Everywhere. You have to be very careful when you speak to human beings because the man who is standing in front of you has something divine in himself. Trees, they have something divine in them. Animals of course. And even objects, they have something of the divine.