Monday, July 19, 2010

Night - Elie Wiesel

Night by Elie Wiesel
Translated by Marion Wiesel

Hill and Wang

Rating: 10
Readability: The style is very readable, but the content is sometimes hard to read.
Impact: 9

Read it Again: Yes
Recommend it: Yes

What to Expect

A heart-rending, poignant memoir of a teenage boy during the holocaust.

This book is brutal in its portrayal of brutality.
It is certainly not for the faint hearted. It gets an R rating for violence, disturbing images, and some other material.
Having said that, it is not an inappropriate book. I highly recommend it. Some of it is disturbing, but it's subject matter is disturbing. To try to make it undisturbing would be unforgivable.

Elie Wiesel is now a best selling author of over 55 books. This is his first. His testimony to the world.

My Squib

I hardly know what to say about this book.

I feel guilty admiring his writing style (even after it has survived translation), but the truth is, its amazing. I was so struck by the elegant prose in the introduction that I read it three times and then immediately felt guilty for admiring it so much when it deals with the subject matter.

The main book text is not as fluid and amazing as the introduction, but his style fits perfectly with his story. It is heart wrenching and honest.

This is not a happy book, but I highly recommend it. There is much to learn from such a slim, 100 page volume.

One thing that did strike me was how far Jews have come from the OT even and how different everything would be without Christ. I would never have the stamina and will to continue living that this sixteen year old boy does if I did not have hope in Jesus.

I quoted a section of the forward by a French Christian who met the author before the book was written.
Wiesel, a reporter at the time, was conducting an interview with him on his reaction and memories from the war. Francois Mauriac, the French Christian, spoke of a memory of the eyes of starving Jewish children staring from a moving train car. Wiesel replied, "I was one of those children." Thus started their relationship.
Mauriac's reaction and wish for the Jews to have known and recognized Christ as Lord, spoke strait to me. You can see the quote below.

Please read the quotes. They say much more then I can.

From the Book

Okay, so I took a lot of quotes from this book. I wanted a piece of the intro because it was so beautifully profound. I took a piece of the forward because it took my emotions and thoughts towards this story from a Christian perspective and put them into better words. I took pieces from the book so you actually see what it was like. And I took pieces from Elie Wiesel's Peace Prize speech because he is so amazingly quotable. I do not necessarily agree with everything Wiesel says, but his views on indifference spoke right to me.

Please read the quotes. They will give you much more then my review can. Or, just pick up the book and read....

-From the introduction to the new edition-

"If in my lifetime I was to write only one book, this would be the one.
Just as our past lingers in the present, all my writings after Night, including those that deal with biblical, Talmudic, or Hasidic themes, profoundly bear its stamp, and cannot be understood if one has not read this very first of my works.
Why did I write it?
Did I write it so as not to go mad, or on the contrary, to go mad in order to understand the nature of madness, the immense, terrifying madness that erupted in history and the conscience of mankind?
Was it to leave behind a legacy of words, of memories, to help prevent history from repeating itself?
Or was it simply to preserve a record of the ordeal I endured as an adolescent, at an age when one's knowledge of death and evil should be limited to what one discovers in literature?
There are those that tell me that I survived in order to write this text. I am not convinced. I do not know how I survived: I was weak, rather shy; I did nothing to save myself. A miracle? Certainly not. If heaven could or would perform a miracle for me, why not for others more deserving than myself. It was nothing more than chance. However, having survived, I needed to give some meaning to my survival. Was it to protect the meaning that I set to paper an experience in which nothing made sense?
In retrospect I must confess that I do not know, or no longer know, what I wanted to achieve with my words. I only know that without this testimony, my life as a writer - or my life, period - would not have become what it is: that of a witness who believes he has a moral obligation to try and prevent the enemy from enjoying one last victory by allowing his crimes to be erased from human memory....

And yet, having lived through this experience, one could not keep silent no matter how difficult, if not impossible, it was to speak.
And so I persevered. And trusted the silence that envelops and transcends words. Knowing all the while that anyone of the fields of ashes in Birkenau carries more weight then all the testimonies about Birkenau. For despite all my attempts to articulate the unspeakable, 'it' is still not right....

Sometimes I am asked if I know 'the response to Auschwitz'; I answer that not only do I know it, but that I don't even know if a tragedy of this magnitude has a response. What I do know is that theres is a 'response' in responsibility. When we speak of this era of evil and darkness so close and yet so distant, 'responsibility' is the key word.
The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children who will be born tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future.

~Introduction to the New Translation by Elie Wiesel

-From the forward by Francois Mauriac-

"And I, who believe that God is love, what answer was there to give my young interlocutor whose dark eyes still held the reflection of the angelic sadness that had appeared one day on the face of a hanged child?
What did I say to him?
Did I speak to him of that other Jew, this crucified brother who perhaps resembled him and whose cross conquered the world?
Did I explain to him that what had been a stumbling block for his faith had become a cornerstone for mine.
And that the connection between the cross and human suffering remains, in my view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which the faith of his childhood was lost? And yet, Zion has risen up again out of the crematoria and the slaughterhouses. The Jewish nation has been resurrected from among its thousands of dead. It is they who have given it new life.
We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Almighty is the Almighty, the last word of each of us belongs to Him.
That is what I should have said to the Jewish child. But all I could do was embrace him and weep."
~From the Forward by Francois Mauriac

-From the Book Text-

"The night was gone. The morning star was shining in the sky. I too had become a completely different person. The student of the Talmud, the child that I was, had been consumed in the flames. There remained only a shape that looked like me. A dark flame had entered my soul and devoured. it."

" 'I've got more faith in Hitler than anyone else. He's the only one who's kept his promises, all his promises to the Jewish people.' "

"I shall never forget Juliek. How could I forget that concert given before an audience of the dead and dying? Even today, when I hear that particular piece of Beethoven, my eyes close and out of the darkness emerges the male and melancholy face of my polish comrade bidding farewell to an audience of dying men."

"From the depths of the mirror, a corpse gazed back at me. The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me."

-From Elie Wiesel's Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance speech 1986

"But I have faith. Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all...

And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.
And then I explain to him how naive we were, that the world di know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.
We must take sides.
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

~From the Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech by Elie Wiesel 1986


Polka Dot said...

Good post. The part about Juliek was SO SAD. It would be an amazing scene in a movie.

dura mater said...

OK. So how do I get a hold of this book? I'm going to spend the rest of my summer on the deck reading, with the growing list of books I'm wanting to read. Great post. Thanks for the quotes to whet our appetites.

Jubilant Wife said...

Thanks for sharing this!