Monday, May 12, 2008

NIGHT by Elie Weisel

Elie Weisel has written one of the most powerful books I have ever read in “Night”. In fact, the New York Times calls it “A slim volume of terrifying power”. The book consists of only 120 pages, but these pages are packed with human drama. This book explores the depth of human emotion and takes the reader on a journey to the very foundation of the human psyche. Wiesel uses horrifying honesty of the brutality of the Nazi regime and explores the human mind in a way that most people cannot imagine. His contrast of the idyllic life he lived as a pre war Jewish boy growing up in Sighet, Transylvania to the horror of the Nazi concentration camps is sobering to say the least.

In pre war Transylvania, Weisel dreamed of studying the Jewish religion and Kabbalah. He had a very nice and peaceful upbringing and enjoyed a very loving family. His family ran a small store and lived happily until the Nazi’s invaded his town. Shortly after the Nazi’s invaded they turned the town into a “Ghetto” and moved everyone from their homes. In time all were loaded onto cattle cars and sent to concentration camps. Weisel describes this in this most compelling verse from the book:

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, they turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things; even were I condemned to live as long as God himself.


Weisel makes the pain ever so clear. Throughout the book he describes in chilling detail the insanity of the concentration camps. He makes the brutality real, he makes you feel the gut wrenching anguish and takes you inside the desperate mind of a Jewish prisoner of war. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish and desperation that sets in. His touching stories of the love he felt for his family, the total helplessness he felt when watching his father suffer, and ultimately his fathers agonizing death. Weisel points out the minds desire to survive and how desperation will force a person to turn against their most beloved. His desperation even led him to doubt the existence of the God he once sought to dedicate his life to.

I found Weisel’s brutal honesty made “night” one of the most heroic pieces of literature I have read. I cannot imagine the ability to write with such candor about our very darkest emotions. His brutal honesty was refreshing. He could have chosen to write the book in a much simpler and watered down truth. However, he depicted events as they truly were. Or maybe the book was written in a watered down approach. With all his candor and courage Weisel may not have been able to fully depict the sheer evil of the Nazi’s.The evil of the Nazi’s may very well be beyond truth. However, this book shines light on the dark side of human nature. It is well worth the emotional read.


Rosa Say said...

My goodness Rocky, I must say that your review is written with similarly compelling distinction, for it is quite clear that Weisel made a profound impression on you.

There is a fine balance that an author attempting this type of writing must achieve; brutal honesty, in my opinion, is not skillful enough. As a reader, I don't care for any writing done for shock's sake; it is clumsy and too raw. To me, the author is skillful when he propels you toward action or releases a breakthrough emotion for you with an accuracy that spares us of the graphic. I have not read this book, but trusting in your opinion as I do, it seems that Weisel was able to respect the reader while being true to his depiction of that regrettable time in human history.

Rocky said...

Thanks Rosa,
I really liked this book for a couple of reasons. 1. For the writers candor. He was so upfront with his feelings and his portrayal of the need to survive and how that overshadowed everything. and 2. The impact it had on me. I have studied the Holocaust a little through the years. however, this book made it real to me. It was as though I could mentally picture the events as I was reading the book. I am not sure why this book made things more clear than others except for the fact his honesty really resonated with me. it is a compelling book and can easily be read in a couple of sittings.

David Zinger said...

This was indeed a very powerful post about a very powerful book and right after this I am going out to get the book. Thank you.

rocky said...

Thanks David. I found the book incredibly candid and inspiring. I hope you get as much from reading it as I did.