Grasping for the Wind Rotating Header Image

Book Review: Night by Elie Wiesel

Genre: Memoir, Autobiography, Jewish Studies
Pub. Date: January 2006
Series: Oprah’s Book Club Series
Format: Paperback, 144pp

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was able to pick up a copy of Elie Wiesel’s book Night for a measly $1. I would never have paid full price for such slim volume, not because I thought the book lacked value, but because I knew I could finish it in one sitting and then what would I read?

I was correct in my assessment of how quickly the book could be read, but I was incorrect to assume that paying full price was a waste of funds. The slimness of the book belies its value. Night is a memoir, a series of vignettes, memories and impressions that Wiesel calls to mind about his experiences in being sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. He remembers the slow method by which the Jews were forced out of their homes, then their towns, and finally removed from life by the atrocities of the Germans.

His story is especially significant in that he and his family were taken much later in the war, even as Germany saw it was fighting a losing battle. But the Jewish race was to be eradicated at all costs (since a scapegoat is always needed to justify conquest) and the Germans continued their efforts to do so right up until the end.

Wiesel is just a boy when his entire family is split up (although he and his father manage to stay together throughout their imprisonment and torture) and they are taken to Auschwitz. I have been there, and the miasma of evil still pervades that place. It has soaked into the land and buildings themselves, penetrated it so deeply with sadness and horror that I think it will never be forgotten. Wiesel relates his story, and the reader knows intimately why such a place is filled with evil.

And yet, there are times of triumph. All is not despair, not all Germans are evil, and not all Jews are heroes. It is the frank honesty with which Wiesel tells his story, sparing the reader no truth, keeping from editorializing and philosophizing, that won Wiesel his Nobel Peace Prize. He tells the story of what happened to him, and in doing so, tells the story of the Jews in World War II.

This book is a must read for any person. As part of Oprah’s Book Club, the work has reached a wider audience, and the new edition translated by his wife is supposed to be a more accurate translation that captures the essence of the story even better. I throughly enjoyed the book. I was sad when little Elie was sad, and felt his triumphs when he triumphed. (Perhaps this is what it means to weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh, as Scripture says?) Anyone can read this slim volume, and no excuse of lack of time will hold. Wiesel calls us to remember what happened to him and millions of others, and with this volume gracing store shelves, it will be hard to forget.