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Friday, November 11, 2005 

Night




1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel took the wind out of me when he burst into my life as a senior in high school. His most well known work, Night, was required reading for my IB Lit. class. A slim work, and quite short at 109 pages, it is an eternity to read, to force one’s self through his haunting pages. To read this book, which is an account of his degraded violation at the hands of Nazi soldiers, is to suffer – on an inconceivably small scale – what actually happened to him.

"Three days after the liberation of Buchenwald I became very ill with food poisoning. I was transferred to the hospital and spent two weeks between life and death.
One day I was able to get up, after gathering all my strength. I wanted to see myself in the mirror hanging on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto.
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."

Such is how Wiesel ends his horrifying nightmare of a narrative, and that is how the reader feels upon accomplishing the read. Forcing yourself to turn page after page, to relive the horror, atrocity, and indecency perpetuated in one’s own history compels you to face the corpse staring back at you.

There are several facets of the book that are worth exploring, but I’d like to close this post with a comment from the forward, written by Francois Mauriac. Mauriac, a French Christian, recounts his first exposure to Wiesel, when the author, then still a young man, first appeared in his office to discuss the transcript of the monograph that was to become Night. Mauriac, undone in the face of Wiesel’s account, struggles to grasp how to relate to this Jew who has suffered so. Reflecting on how the Holocaust had tried Wiesel’s and millions of other pious Jews’ faith, Mauriac is devastated, and laments,

"And I, who believe that God is love, what answer could I give my young questioner, whose dark eyes still held the reflection of that angelic sadness which had appeared one day upon the face of the hanged child? What did I say to him? Did I speak of that other Jew, his brother, who may have resembled him – the Crucified, whose Cross has conquered the world? Did I affirm that the stumbling block to his faith was the cornerstone of mine, and that the conformity between the Cross and the suffering of men was in my eyes the key to that impenetrable mystery whereon the faith of his childhood had perished? Zion, however, has risen up again from the crematories and the charred houses. The Jewish nation has been resurrected from among its thousands of dead. It is through them that it lives again. We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Eternal is the Eternal, the last word for each one of us belongs to Him. That is what I should have told this Jewish child. But I could only embrace him, weeping."

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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