Aaron’s Leap

Mag­dalé­na Plat­zová; Craig Cravens, trans.
  • Review
By – June 10, 2014

In Aaron’s Leap, Mag­dalé­na Plat­zová tells the sto­ries of var­i­ous artis­tic char­ac­ters whose lives inti­mate­ly con­nect over the span of a cen­tu­ry. The book cen­ters around the sto­ry of Berta Alt­mann, a vic­tim of the Holo­caust, whose brash art and mod­ern lifestyle inspire a present-day Israeli film crew who cre­ate a doc­u­men­tary about her life. Two mem­bers of the crew, Meli­na and Aaron, are attract­ed to each oth­er and have an affair despite Aaron’s dis­clo­sure that he has recent­ly fall­en in love.

Meli­na learns more about Berta’s life through her diaries, which were giv­en to Melina’s grand­moth­er, Kristý­na, before Berta was trans­port­ed to Terezín and even­tu­al­ly mur­dered at Auschwitz. Berta’s life, before and even dur­ing the war is filled with mod­ernism and new twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry ideas, from her love affairs to her inter­est in mod­ern art. Berta strug­gles with issues of fem­i­nism; she wants to be inde­pen­dent and con­cen­trate on her art, but she also feels like a fail­ure as a woman for choos­ing to have abor­tions from her affairs instead of mar­ry­ing and hav­ing a child. Excerpts from her diaries are inter­spersed through­out the book.

The sto­ry is told from the var­i­ous char­ac­ters’ per­spec­tives and fre­quent­ly switch­es time peri­ods. These changes can be con­fus­ing at times but they cre­ate a flu­id­i­ty between the lives of these char­ac­ters and their rela­tions with each other.

Plat­zo­va’s mulit-dimen­son­al char­ac­ters come to life through their strug­gles to under­stand the pur­pose of art and the polit­i­cal opin­ions of the peo­ple around them in a time of war and uncer­tain­ty. Art and mod­ern thought are at the cen­ter of these char­ac­ters’ lives and they seek truth through art, love, and friend­ship, invit­ing the read­er to join them on this jour­ney of self-discovery. 

Relat­ed Content:

Jamie Wendt is the author of the poet­ry col­lec­tion Fruit of the Earth, pub­lished by Main Street Rag Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny (2018) and win­ner of the 2019 Nation­al Fed­er­a­tion of Press Women Book Award. Her poet­ry has been pub­lished in var­i­ous lit­er­ary jour­nals and antholo­gies, includ­ing Fem­i­nine Ris­ing: Voic­es of Pow­er and Invis­i­bil­i­tyLilith, Raleigh ReviewMin­er­va Ris­ing, Third Wednes­day, and Saranac Review. Her essays and book reviews have been pub­lished in Green Moun­tains Review, the For­ward, Lit­er­ary Mama, and oth­ers. She holds an MFA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka Oma­ha. She teach­es high school Eng­lish and lives in Chica­go with her hus­band and two children.

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