Monday, March 31, 2014
Many of you probably read Night in high school, but for those who didn't (like me)... it is the Nobel Peace Prize winning account of Wiesel's experience in the concentration camps.
There isn't much I can say about a book that takes place in a concentration camp that hasn't already been said. Harrowing. Dehumanizing. I couldn't read more than a few pages of this book at a time or I would get depressed and anxious. Night is a symbol of the darkness and loss of hope Wiesel experienced in the camp, and it is palpable and penetrating throughout the book.
I think the way that Night differs from many of the Holocaust books I've read (and I've read a few -- I had an Anne Frank obsession in high school) is the starkness of the detail. When Wiesel is running ceaselessly in the night, I felt the burning in my own lungs. He spares no details. The last lines he writes, when he has been rescued and sees himself in the mirror for the first time and says a corpse looks back at him, will probably shudder in my memory forever. His writing is simple and powerful.
I also was impacted by the theme of father and son trying to stay together but constantly being dehumanized and betraying each other. We see pair after pair of father and son being torn apart, or the son abandoning the father in his desire to survive. We see Wiesel struggle to be faithful to his father and keep him alive, but we also see, in his blatant honesty, the way the desire to survive starts to fray at his love and faith.
Night was by no means an enjoyable book to read. It sits heavy in your mind and heart and I have a feeling that heaviness will continue even though I've now read through it. However, it is worthwhile -- worthwhile to remember those that suffered in the Holocaust, worthwhile to see what the human soul can survive. It is definitely a book I will remember.
Warnings: Violence and disturbing images