Mar 23, 2011

Night

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 an woman among them who kept screaming about seeing flames, in order 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

more opinions at:
Ardent Reader
Diary of an Eccentric
Ready When You Are, CB
You've GOTTA Read This! 
Book Addiction
Things Mean a Lot
Hooser's Blook

12 comments:

Nymeth said...

It's been about three years since I read this and I still remember some of the scenes in vivid detail. I can completely understand taking a while to get through it.

bermudaonion said...

I haven't read any of his work, but my son read this in high school and loved it.

C.B. James said...

You already know that I am an admirer of this book. I did try to read the sequel but did not get very far. Several of my students did read it. They liked it but thought Night was his best.

Susan said...

This is a book that I keep thinking I should read, but when I pick it up, I can't bear it. The searing of the Holocaust is almost too much to bear, even though I know it's so important to bear witness to it also. I recently read scenes in Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck that also burned in my mind. It's always horrifying. I know Elie Wiesel was one of the ones to try to find meaning in what he went through, and it was this book and the others he wrote that led many psychologists to speculate that it was a strong sense of faith that got them through the Holocaust. So I find it interesting that Wiesel struggled with his faith.

Good, insightful review, Jeane.

Stefanie said...

I've not read Wiesel but I have heard nothing bu good things about his books. When I was in high school we had to read Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. The camp descriptions were horrifying and the logotherapy stuff went right over my head in 9th grade.

xalwaysdreamx said...

I had a similar obsession in high-school. I read lots of novels featuring victims of the holocaust...in diary form etc. I've been meaning to read Elie Wiesel since I heard Oprah talk about (laughs sheepishly...)

--Sharry

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I've heard a lot about this one but I've never read it. It sounds really good. 2 Kids and Tired Books

Jenny said...

I haven't read that many Holocaust books -- it's just too upsetting. I keep thinking how bad I would be at surviving a concentration camp, especially if a bunch of my family were there too. But I got assigned Night in high school English and couldn't escape. It was really upsetting, I'm not sure I could handle more books by Wiesel. :(

Bookfool said...

I've read one of his books, but it wasn't NIGHT and I don't remember the title. It was a strange book - confusing because he used a lot of imagery, but I've been telling myself for years that I need to read NIGHT, even though I can't say the book I read was a favorite. If I can figure out or remember what I read, I'll return to let you know about it.

Trish said...

I remember being really haunted by this book but agree that it's one of the more detached accounts that I've read about a man's experience in the Holocaust. Havne't read any of his other books. He seems to be so well-known for just this one.

Jeane said...

I was curious if his other books also have to do with the Holocaust, or if he's written fiction, or what. But it seems no one has read them!

Anna said...

It's amazing how much of a punch this book packs with so few details, but it's among the most powerful books about the Holocaust that I've read. Thanks for linking to my review! I'll link to your review on War Through the Generations.