Night (Amazon Affiliate Link)
Author : Elie Wiesel
Published By : Multiple (Hill and Wang, etc)
Year Published : 1956
Genre / Tags : Classics, Non-Fiction, History
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, eBook
# of Pages : 115 pages (Paperback)
Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel’s memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man. This new translation by his wife and most frequent translator, Marion Wiesel, corrects important details and presents the most accurate rendering in English of Elie Wiesel’s testimony to what happened in the camps and of his unforgettable message that this horror must simply never be allowed to happen again.
Warning, this is less a review and more a scattered (yet hopefully brisk) stream-of-consciousness about how this book made me feel and why it’s important. Definitely a key inclusion on any of those “Books You Must Read Before You Die” type lists. But anyway, on with the show.
I go into reviewing classics with a bit of trepidation, since the lion’s share of books featured on this blog are “for fun” general fiction, YA, thrillers, fantasy, etc.
Night is a book that is taught in middle school and highschool and has also been challenged for its content. My thoughts on that debacle is that (generally speaking) if kids are old enough to be around the age of the young protagonist of this non-fiction novel, they’re old enough to learn about what he went through. And this is perhaps one of the most approachable books when it comes to length (quite short, can be finished in a sitting) and comprehensiveness. It has an emotional power that I think many will be able to connect to, if not now then in years to follow when revisiting.
In the version I read, the introduction gave away a key event at the end. I have mixed feelings about that. On one hand it’s a spoiler, on the other I felt that knowing what was going to happen intensified my thoughts going forward. A sort of feeling of “This particular bad thing is going to happen, I don’t want it to happen, but it’s going to by book’s end.” Which is very linked to the protagonist’s experience, and deepens one’s connection to his dread and increasingly powerless-feeling mindset.
While much of the tone is cold, almost detached on the part of the traumatized protagonist, there is much talk of his religion and losing faith in God because of his experiences. These sections are some of the most strongly written and thought-provoking. I was immediately wondering how religious people might have felt about those sections. Like many classics (the most recent other one for me being We Have Always Lived In The Castle) Night sparks a dialogue and curiosity about other people’s thoughts, opinions, and interpretations of the text.
I’d like to close this review by bringing up a little story about looking up reviews/essays for this novel and quickly finding parents discuss how they didn’t want their (and furthermore, other people’s) middle school and even highschool-aged children reading this book because it’s too dark and disturbing. I can sympathize with this in certain situations but.. I just don’t think it should ever be a prevailing standard for young people to be sheltered from content like this.
It brought back a memory I’d had of being around 14-15 years old and being subscribed to teen magazine (Seventeen maybe, or one of those similar teen magazines) there was an article about a young girl who survived what would have been an honor killing, her face injured by acid. The article was very well-written and she related her experiences and seeking asylum. There was also a full page picture of her sitting down, her face shown.
The following month one of the prominent letters to the editor was from a girl, also pictured, who wrote a letter criticizing that previous month’s article for its disturbing and upsetting picture that “gave her nightmares” and how she would unsubscribe from the magazine if they ever showed such content again.
I don’t know how this next statement is going to come across but I’ll just say it- the picture of the girl who wrote this rebuttal was the picture of privilege. A very conventionally beautiful girl, smiling, glowing with vitality. I remember feeling this anger at how someone who visibly had so much could react in such a way to someone who had suffered so much telling their story and even showing their face. It was hard to find the right words (or any words) at the time to express why it was upsetting to read that letter.
If I’d read Night around that time in school, it might have been easier to make the right connections and express those feelings with better clarity and understanding. The final chapter is especially effective at conveying the significance of this book. Now in closing are some choice quotes, all credit to Goodreads quotes section for this book.
“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”
“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
“For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.”
“…I believe it important to emphasize how strongly I feel that books, just like people, have a destiny. Some invite sorrow, others joy, some both.”
“We cannot indefinitely avoid depressing subject matter, particularly if it is true, and in the subsequent quarter century the world has had to hear a story it would have preferred not to hear – the story of how a cultured people turned to genocide, and how the rest of the world, also composed of cultured people, remained silent in the face of genocide. (v)”
“Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow.”
“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Overall Rating – 10/10
Thanks so much for reading my review! Have you read Night or plan to in the future? Always welcoming your thoughts, thanks as always for the likes and comments. Still catching up on reviews, everyone’s blogs, and back to reading more steadily. ~ Kitty