To my surprise [Kafka] spoke to me not only in my mother tongue but also in another language that I knew intimately, the language of the absurd. I knew what he was talking about. It wasn't a secret language for me and I didn't need any explications. I had come from the camps and the forests, from a world that embodied the absurd, and nothing in that world was foreign to me.
My real world was far beyond the power of imagination, and my task as an artist was not to develop my imagination but to restrain it, and even then it seemed impossible to me, because everything was so unbelievable that one seemed oneself to be fictional.
... the Jewish experience in the Second World War was not 'historical'. We came into contact with archaic mythical forces, a kind of dark subconscious the meaning of which we did not know, nor do we know it today.
To write things as they happened means to enslave oneself to memory, which is only a minor element in the creative process. To my mind, to create means to order, to sort out, and choose the words and the pace that fit the work. The materials are indeed materials from one's life, but ultimately the creation is an independent creature.
When I wrote Tzili I was about forty years old. At that time I was interested in the possibilities of naiveness in art. Can there be a naive modern art? It seemed to me that without the naivete still found among children and old people and, to some extent, in ourselves, the work of art would be flawed. I tried to correct that flaw.
It took me years to draw close to the Jew within me. I had to get rid of many prejudices within me and to meet many Jews in order to find myself in them. Anti-semitism directed at oneself was an original Jewish creation. I don't know of any other nation so flooded with self-criticism. Even after the Holocaust, Jews did not seem blameless in their own eyes. On the contrary, harsh comments were made by prominent Jews against the victims, for not protecting themselves and fighting back. The ability of Jews to internalize any critical and condemnatory remark and castigate themselves is one of the marvels of human nature.
Appelfeld, interviewed by Philip Roth