by Elie Wiesel
translated by Marion Wiesel
Years and years ago in high school I went through a period of reading lots of books about the Holocaust- mostly personal accounts. I can hardly remember what any of them were now, but they held a kind of horrified fascination for me. After some time, though, the subject just got too depressing. I couldn’t take it anymore and quit approaching those books. This one has been sitting on my shelf for ages and I’m not quite sure what made me pick it up now. It says something that it took me quite a few days to get through such slender text, though.
Night recounts how the author lived through and survived being shuffled between ghettos and several different concentration camps during WWII. Luckily he was able to stay with his father almost the entire time, but it seemed a heartwrenching thing, too, that they had to watch each other suffer. He tells about all the awful things: brutal treatment, starvation, forced marches, seeing infants and young children killed, people hanged for no good reason, etc. etc. Near the end his father becomes very weak and ill, and their roles are reversed as he must protect and care for his father, often with resentment. He also talks a lot about how his faith in God was shaken, about deep despair and hoplessness. It’s all told in a very sparse, poetic style that really doesn’t give a lot of detail. On the one hand, I was glad of that. Sometimes the details can just be too harrowing, especially in this case. On the other hand, I often felt detached from what I was reading, as if I was viewing it all through a telescope turned the wrong way. What most saddened me was reading about how some of the people turned on each other- a son fighting his father over a scrap of bread, men in a transport car beating up a woman among them who kept screaming about seeing flames, to silence her… I can easily see why Night is among the classics. It’s a very personal, direct account of the horrific things that happened during the Holocaust. It just makes your heart ache.
Wiesel has written many many other books; he was a favorite author of one of my friends in high school. Has anyone read some of his other works? I’m curious about them…
Rating: 3/5 …….. 120 pages, 1958