Friday, December 15, 2006

Book 97: Night

NUMBER: 97
TITLE: Night
AUTHOR: Elie Wiesel
STARTED: December 14, 2006
FINISHED: December 15, 2006
PAGES: 109
GENRE: Memoir

FIRST SENTENCE: They called him Moshe the Beadle, as though he had never had a surname in his life.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] An autobiographical narrative in which the author describes his experiences in Nazi concentration camps, watching family and friends die, and how they led him to believe that God is dead.

REASON FOR READING: I came across it as I was working overtime in the stacks and just decided to take it home.

THOUGHTS: You can't review this book. You can talk about the prose, but you can't actually review memoirs, and this memoir specifically. How do you talk about the plot and characters of someone's life, of someone's past, of the death of someone's religion and childhood? You can't. Wiesel's book is important because it is so open. It lays bare a 15-year old boy's innermost soul.

The one part of this book you can review is the prose. It is stark. It is simple. And it is heart-wrenching. The basic prose leaves the reader feeling exposed and vulnerable. There is absolutely no hiding from Wiesel's story. And that is where my conundrum comes in. For me, this book was not so much about one man's struggle through hell; it was about the compassion of man. More explicitly, this book made me think about where human compassion fails.

It may just be me, but I found myself not really "feeling" Weisel's horrors. Last year, I read about genocide... a lot. Since I was writing about humanitarian intervention for my politics thesis and the Rwandan genocide in film for my media studies senior paper, I found myself reading mountains of articles and books on genocide throughout history. And, I think somewhere in my research, I became numb to the horrors of this travesty. The first few articles had me on the verge of tears; after I watched Hotel Rwanda and Sometimes in April in the same afternoon, I was depressed for 48 hours. But after that, nothing moved me any more.

That's why Night made me ask myself, "When does human compassion stop?" This book should have moved me to tears many times. It should have me gunning to rage against the genocide that is occurring in Darfur. Instead, I read it in one sitting, merely blinking through the most difficult scenes. Am I no longer a compassionate person, do I no longer care about the ravages against humanity that are ongoing as I type this, or has my brain simply shut down to save my sanity?

For me, Night is not simply about the horrors of on man's experience of the holocaust, it makes the reader questions how much horror they can stand. It forces them to ask themselves whether they are strong enough to act against genocide. It makes the reader questions who they are, how they perceive the ultimate crime, and what, if anything, they can do about it.

MISCELLANEOUS: What was the whole debate over this book? I remember there being something, but I'm not entirely sure what it was.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): Returned to the library
RATING: 8/10 [Terrific]

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