Monday, May 19, 2008

Night Terrors

Jenna read "Night" by Elie Wiesel in school some months ago and had highly recommended it to me.
The novel is based on Wiesel's experience, as a young Orthodox Jew, of the German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II. Wiesel was 16 years old when Buchenwald was liberated in April 1945. Having lost his faith in both God and humanity, he vowed not to speak of his experiences for ten years, at the end of which he wrote his story in Yiddish, which was published in Buenos Aires in 1955. It was later published in French and, finally, in English.
I looked for it in various used bookstores to no avail. Finally the book slipped my mind. On Saturday, at Jenna's urging (with a healthy dose of prompting by Bridget) I purchased "Night" at Pazzo Books in Roslindale.
Last night, book in hand, I settled down to begin reading around 8:15.
I put the book down - finished - at 10:05.
I want to describe this experience. I want to tell you how I felt when I turned the last page.
There is no possible way to review this book.
It is not a book.
It is a story.
It is the same as listening to someone describe a painful, horrific and personal experience in their own words and at their own pace. The memory may be faulty and the details may be blurred. Scenes may change abruptly as the train of thought has brought the storyteller to another place in their history. But the feeling is real; the horror inescapable. The unthinkable as the reality.
No, that's wrong. "Night" is not a book or a story.
It is memory.
It is a memory of nightmare and horror.
To review or critique this book would be the same as criticizing the word choices made by a storyteller when he is describing a nightmare that they experienced.
When reading "Night" it is important to listen to what is being said by Wiesel.
"Night" is memories - his memories - of the atrocious. It is memories of Hell and it is full of the damned. The victims. Their tormentors. All damned.
Wiesel has told us a story.
We should listen to him.
And remember what we heard.


Blogger FoxInDetox said...

Another one on the list of things to read.

Thanks friend.

9:35 AM, May 19, 2008  
Blogger Bridget said...

I am not surprised that your experience with the memories of Elie Wiesel was similar to mine and Jenna's. How anyone could start to read this account and then put it down somewhere in the middle, only to be picked back up at a later time is beyond me. This is one of the many reminders written by survivors so that we will never forget. After 20 years, I'm still wishing that I had taken Wiesel's class at Simmons College. That would have been another amazing experience.

11:46 AM, May 19, 2008  
Blogger Letera said...

He was on Oprah and they went back to where he was in the camps. Its a very chilling time in our history by far. How could people have done what the germans did back then to people who were of a different religion. Its amazing now when I meet people from germany and how they appear to be the perfect race as hitler was trying to accomplish. I dont think these people think this but it always reminds me of that time. Growing up in NJ I knew so many people of different cultures and religions. Elie is amazing person. What is sad is the countries in our time now that are going thru this, Africa for example. It can be very overwhelming to think about it and very sad.

9:03 PM, May 20, 2008  

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