Thursday, August 23, 2012

Night by Eile Wiesel

Nonfiction, memoir, Holocaust
Rating: *****
Series: First of a trilogy
Pages: 120. And that's counting the preface, introduction, and Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech at the end.
This is not the kind of book I usually read. But I had to for my English class. I put it off until the end of August because, well, it's a Holocaust book and I wanted to enjoy my summer. I checked it out from the library along with a load of fantasy, figuring I could focus on them and rush chapters of Night in between.
So there I was, eating lunch next to my stack of library books, when I decided I'd pick up Night and just read the first sentence. Because I like first sentences.
You know how you manually shovel popcorn into your mouth in an action packed movie? That's how I ate pasta while reading the first page. And that was just the preface.
Night tells the story of Eliezer Wiesel's time in concentration camps and the horrors he endured there.
Hmm. My summaries are usually longer. But really, that's all I can say. None of my own words could do justice to the crematoriums and starvation and horrible inhumanities.
What got me was the simplicity. Wiesel makes no attempt to dramatize anything. People he cares for die in a sentence. The camp is liberated in less than half a page. The words are all basic and understandable aside from a few German names and terms. Yet somehow, strung together, these words commanded a dark, eerie essence.
"The road was endless. To allow oneself to be carried by the mob, to be swept away by blind fate. When the SS were tired, they were replaced. But no one replaced us. Chilled to the bone, our throats parches, famished, out of breath, we pressed on.
We were the masters of nature, the masters of the world. We had transcended everything-death, fatigue, our natural needs. We were stronger than cold and hunger, stronger than the guns and the desire to die, doomed and rootless, nothing but numbers, we were the only men on earth."
-Page 87
Even the less eloquent parts pack raw power in the context.
We came to an abandoned village.
Nobody asked anyone for help. One died because one had to. No point in making trouble.
Our eyes searched the horizon for the barbed wire of Gleiwitz.
If you only read one Holocaust book, read this one.

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