Edwidge Danticat was the only author to list this in her top ten. I love the name Edwidge Danticat. I don’t remember ever hearing her name before, even with any other books I read for the Top Ten. I looked her up in the book to get her bio (and to find out that she was a she and not a he :O )
“Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was twelve. Her books include Breath, Eyes, Memory; The Dew Breaker and the Farming of Bones which won an American Book Award”.
Looking at her Top Ten, I have actually read a couple for this blog. And Dave has read a couple. So, apparently her name did not strike me with its originality until tonight.
Which might be because I just finished Night.
Before I start talking about Night fully, I will admit to something. I have, since an early age, been fascinated by the Holocaust. Not in an insane way or a creepy way (I have no Nazi uniforms and have no idea the name of the woman who was a wife of a commandant and supposedly made lampshades from Jewish skin). Further confession: I made Greg spend six hours in the Holocaust Museum on our honeymoon. Which, when I say that, he always responds “I was interested too”. (I do, in fact, often thank God that I married Greg).
Somehow, I had never read Night though. I remember picking it up once years ago and putting it back down. I think I was mainly interested in women Holocaust victims and survivors at that point. So, I picked it for this week.
Night is a very short novel in terms of words written. It’s a forever novel as in the images Wiesel sears into your soul. I’ve read a lot of Holocaust memoirs, fiction and historical accounts. Many that went on longer than Night. Night is one of the most vivid ones I’ve ever read. Wiesel would have done Hemingway proud in his brevity and ability to pack as much as he could into each word.
Wiesel, prior to going to the camps as a young teenager, was a very devout Jew, and in fact, had history not …you know, I can’t even think of the right word, the one that keeps coming to mind is raped, so raped it is…raped him, he would have probably been a Kabal scholar. The camps changed that.
“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the faces of the little children whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God, Himself. Never.”
Later on, after seeing the hanging of a younger boy whom was well liked in the area of camp they were in:
“Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
‘Where is God now?’
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
Where is He? Here He is–He is hanging here on this gallows.
That night the soup tasted of corpses.”
Many authors I have read have talked about the immense hunger in the camps. Only Wiesel has managed to sum it up in one short paragraph so well.
“I now took little interest in anything except my daily plate of soup and my crust of stale bread. Bread, soup–these were my whole life. I was a body. Perhaps less than that even: a starved stomach. The stomach alone was aware of the passage of time.”
Elie managed to survive with his father until almost the end. Then his father finally, exhausted from their march from Auschwitz area to Buchenwald, died. Wiesel and his father had had the choice of staying in the infirmary at the camp they were at, but afraid of being “liquidated” they left with the others. Wiesel stated that he found later that 2 days after they left, the Russians walked in and liberated them.
This book will leave you feeling heavy. Weighed down.
But, still I highly recommend you read it.
One: As just a general human being on this planet, to see what some humans will do to other humans, to educate yourself, to develop a sense of compassion.
Two: As a writer, Wiesel’s writing could teach a lot.
And now, I’m putting the rest of his books on my To Be Read pile.
Have a great weekend 🙂