Book Review: Night by Elie Wiesel

26 Sep

Yet another book done!  If anyone’s counting, that’s a total of 53 for the year, well on my way to a goal of 70.  I’m trying to get ahead a bit before NaNo because that’s going to slow me down.

I read this book because I love historical accounts and because I’d never read it before.  I know, shocking.  It was never required in high school, though I do remember an ex-boyfriend who read it and raved about it.  I didn’t much respect his literary preferences then or now, but when my husband said something similar, I knew that this book must be something special.

Night by Elie Wiesel, translated by Marion Wiesel

I knew nothing about this book when I went to read it except that it was about the Holocaust.  I actually looked for it in the fiction section and had to use the library computer to find it in the non-fiction audiobooks.  Night is Wiesel’s account of the Holocaust that he survived and how harrowing of a journey he endured.  Wiesel was an adolescent when he entered the camp and only survived the first day by lying about his age.  He wrote this book (and the second two of the trilogy) years after his release and freedom.

Wiesel and his family live in Romania until they are rounded up in 1944 with the other Jews from their ghetto.  They are taken to Auschwitz where Wiesel and his father are separated from his mother and sisters, never to see them again.  He is put in a forced labor complex to sort electrical parts.  When the front starts to move closer to Auschwitz, the military moves the prisoners Buchenwald in central Germany.  The death rate on the move is over 90%.  Those who are left behind in the Auschwitz hospital ward are liberated 3 days after the SS leave.

Without spoiling the ending, I’ll conclude my summary by saying Wiesel just barely makes it out alive and is obviously shocked for life by the ordeal.  He spent his entire life fighting for human rights and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 for his efforts.  This book was published in 1955 and he lives to this day in New York City.  He is 95 years old.

The style Wiesel uses is very sparse in details.  He says that he’d rather write too little than too much.  One thing that Wiesel does concentrate on is feelings, emotions, and reactions.  He talks about how he feels about his father’s illness and what he remembers of it rather than describe the physical maladies his father endured.  The emotional reacting is what I feel was so compelling about Wiesel’s writing.

Much of Wiesel’s message came in the Nobel Acceptance Speech that was included in my copy.  He talks about how all people in our world should be treated like people; with fairness and justice.  At a young age, Wiesel was confounded as to how he was not worthy of the basic necessities of life.  He wants his book to move people to see that all humans, no matter how they are precised by some, are worthy of basic care.

Another theme my husband brought to my attention is Wiesel’s fight with God throughout the novel.  He starts as a devout young Jewish boy and quickly wonders why the God he loves would put his own people through such suffering and death.  Wiesel looses his faith along with most of the prisoners; they stop preying and lose respect for the rabbis.

One question that Wiesel raises is “How did the world not respond?”  If I remember my world history classes well, it wasn’t that no one responded, it’s that no one knew.  Had the world been aware of what the SS were doing to the Jews, would everyone have stood idly by and continued fighting the war for political power and control?  Or would the concentration have changed to human rights and the freedom of the captured Jews?  WWII brought about international criminal tribunals and later the ICJ.  Reaction to what happened in Auschwitz and elsewhere was extreme and severe.  I’d like to think that human concentration during WWII would have shifted from defeating Hitler to liberating the Jews had the world been aware of what was going on.

Wiesel has fought for awareness of human oppression and I think he would agree with me on this point.  If the public and political leaders are aware of problems, then we can fight against them.  Awareness must then lead to action.

This raises the issue of “slactivism” which is a term referring to those who raise awareness of an issue and do nothing to help solve it.  It will usually refer to those who re-tweet something or post on Facebook about how bad a situation is.  I think Wiesel is probably disgusted by these people because of all the forceful action he has taken toward change.  I heard author Thrity Umrigar speak and she said that protests for change are only effective when a person puts their physical safety at risk.  I loved this analogy.  March on Washington= physical risk.  Re-Tweeting about the “Kony 2012” movement= slactivism.

Writer’s Takeaways: I mentioned before that Wiesel’s focus on emotions, feelings, and reactions made this book come to life for me.  I think that’s true of all literature.  Other than that, I don’t want to recommend being a part of mass human extermination so following his life path is not recommended.  Wiesel’s passion and strong belief make him a very compelling writer.  He teaches us all to write from our hearts.

Four out of Five.  Highly recommended.

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5 Responses to “Book Review: Night by Elie Wiesel”

  1. Cousin Nate September 26, 2013 at 9:16 PM #

    Hey yo Sam you should read Virginia Woolf’s book Mrs. Dalloway next. I think you would enjoy it throughly.

    Like

    • Sam September 26, 2013 at 9:59 PM #

      I’ll add it to my lust, cousin! Thanks!!

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Recently Added to my To-Read Shelf | Taking on a World of Words - October 3, 2013

    […] Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.  After I posted my review of Elie Wiesel’s Night, my cousin suggested that I might like Mrs. Dalloway.  Always one to take a suggestion, I’ve […]

    Like

  2. Book Review: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro | Taking on a World of Words - November 19, 2013

    […] after the atrocities commited by the Nazis were in the dark for so long. I wrote about this in my book review of Night. It was people like Lord Darlington who needed to hear Wiesel’s […]

    Like

  3. Goodreads Challenge: Complete! | Taking on a World of Words - December 20, 2013

    […] Night by Elie Wiesel (4) […]

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