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Aharon Appelfeld, Writer, Mevasseret Zion

  • Estimated number of books: 1,500

  • Prominent genres: Hebrew literature, translations, Judaica, reference, philosophy, books on Hasidism ("To paraphrase Buber, let us say that these books deal with the eternal dialogue and the link between mortals and between mortals and their God.")

  • Languages: Hebrew, English, German and Yiddish

  • Method of arrangement: "No systematic arrangement. In such total disorder and such total disarray that only I can find a book in my library."

  • Oldest book in the library: Exodus Rabbah, printed in Czernowitz in 1849. "I received this book, printed in my hometown, Czernowitz, from a friend as a birthday gift."

  • First Hebrew book purchased: "Moshe Shamir's 'The King of Flesh and Blood,' when I was 25. I really suffered: The book was written in Mishnaic Hebrew and I had to look up every word in the dictionary."

  • Most recent book acquired for the library: "Primo Levi's 'Conversazioni e interviste: 1963-1987,' translated into Hebrew. I love the way he writes. Although I never met him, we exchanged some letters. He helped me publish my books in Italy in the 1980s."

  • Most beloved book in library: "Among my books on Hasidism, my favorites are 'Likutei Moharan' (tales of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav) in Hebrew; 'Hayei Moharan' ('Tzaddik: A Portrait of Rabbi Nachman'); and 'Likutei Tefilot' by Reb Nosson of Nemirov. These books are treasures of human and divine wisdom written in the form of short stories. In the genre of belles-lettres, my favorites are works by Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud and especially S.Y. Agnon's novel 'The Bridal Canopy,' which he brought me as a gift on my wedding day and in which he wrote a beautiful dedication."

  • The book in the library to which you return most: "Thomas Mann's 'The Magic Mountain.'"

  • Policy according to which you manage your library: "Books I do not return to are not found in my library."

  • Book you have been unable to finish: "When I cannot finish a book, I put it aside and, at the first opportunity, I offer it to others to read. I am curious to know why I was unable to finish the book - after all, I bought it and wanted to read it. By having others read it, I try to find out why I was unable to finish it and and I try to learn if their opinion of the book differs from mine."

  • Your favorite authors: "Thomas Mann, Anton Chekhov, Isaac Babel and Franz Kafka. These authors are very different from one another, but are close to my heart and I love them."

  • The book that drew you close to your occupational field: "It is hard for me to point to a specific book that drew me close to the world of writing. When I started out, I tried to learn how to write by reading other authors; however, there are some great authors from whom you cannot learn. It is impossible to learn from Thomas Mann, even though his writing is exciting and powerful. It is easier to learn from Chekhov. It is easy to learn from Flaubert, but hard to learn from Stendhal."

  • The line or paragraph you love most, from among the books in the library: "I love the way Chekhov, Kafka and Babel begin a story. I become enraptured by the first lines of their short stories, especially Kafka, the master of openings."

  • Dedication that is dearest to your heart: "In 'The Wedding Canopy,' Agnon wrote me on the occasion of my wedding: 'To Aharon Appelfeld, may he have a long, healthy life. On the occasion of his wedding day. I could not find a rhyme for your name in all our language's treasures. I will have to content myself with the fact that your stories, which I have read, rhyme beautifully. S.Y. Agnon.'"