The Conversion : A Novel

3.57 avg rating
( 53 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780805241532: The Conversion : A Novel

Our story opens in an Austrian city, two generations before the Holocaust, where almost all of the Jews have converted to Christianity. Today the church bells are pealing for Karl, an ambitious young civil servant whose conversion will clear his path to a coveted high government post. Karl's future looks bright, but with his promotion comes a political crisis that turns his conversion into a baptism by fire, unexpectedly reuniting Karl with his past and forcing him to take a stand he could never have imagined.
From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Review:

At the start of Aharon Appelfeld's 12th novel, The Conversion, Karl Hüber has just converted to Christianity. Now in his 30s and never happily identified as a Jew, Karl isn't exactly a true believer in the Christian Trinity either. He has converted only in order to strengthen his chances for promotion within the civil service. The place is Austria, the time pre-World War II. Most of Karl's high-school friends converted long ago; and all through her final illness his mother urged him, "If your career requires you to convert, do it. I won't be angry with you. A person has to advance. Without advancement, there is no purpose or meaning to life." In due course he gets his desired position. But when a proposal to demolish the Jewish shops in the city center comes before the city government, Karl finds himself cast as Defender of the Jews. In fighting for fair compensation for the shopkeepers, he finds himself valuing his people and heritage as he never did before.

Profoundly intertwined with these dramas is the story of his blossoming love for Gloria, an older, Christian-born woman who has lived with his family since he was a boy and she a teenager. Her unofficial but deeply felt conversion to Judaism is to tragically mirror Karl's own hollow abandonment of his faith. In Karl and Gloria's world, as everywhere in Appelfeld's dark fables, the move away from tradition, community, and belief is the first step on a path that will inexorably lead to violence and death. --Daniel Hintzsche

From the Publisher:


"The Conversion is a work of subtle power, at once a historical novel and a
moral parable. We read Appelfeld with a suspension of habitual literary
expectation. He creates an atmosphere charged with ethical significance,
painting characters whose feelings are intricate and idiosyncratic, yet
resonate sadly and sweetly within us all." --The Boston Globe

"The humility of the setting, the mystical light, the mysterious prophecy
both ominous and comforting, this is Appelfeld at his most revelatory. The
Conversion
should be counted among his major works."--The Chicago Tribune

"[Appelfeld's] complex portrayal of a divided soul frustrated in its
pursuit of goodness once again confirms Appelfeld's position as matchless
dramatist of the intermingled burdens and rewards of Jewry in extremis." --
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"A haunting tale of moral compromise and spiritual renewal. Appelfeld . . .
brings a great sense of moral urgency to this moving novel, which comes to
us in a beautiful translation."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"In his fiction, Appelfeld has always reached deep truths about the Jewish
soul and Jewish destiny. This extraordinary, painfully tragic novel
reconfirms his position as a supreme chronicler of a Europe which, for
decades before it became reality, wanted its lands emptied of Jews--a fate
they could neither entirely fathom nor escape." --Miami Herald

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