Books: Magic Mountain

THE RETREAT

by Aharon Appelfeld

Translated by Dalya Bilu

Dutton; 164 pages; $12.95

In Austria toward the end of the 1930s, Jewishness is a defect; there can be no denying such a truth. But life itself is far from perfect, and there is no reason to despair because of that. Perhaps the fault is correctable, a matter of inflamed nerves, bad habits, insufficient exercise. A few months in clean mountain air should help. Early bedtime, rise at dawn. Plain food. Hard work. Early morning runs. Reform is possible. Anything is possible.

The savior in whom this earnest vision burns is a prosperous...

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