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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Night by Elie Wiesel 
20th-Mar-2008 11:59 pm
Wiesel, Elie. Night. Trans. Stella Rodway. 1960. New York: Bantam, 1986.
          Summary: At the tender age of fifteen, the Jewish boy Eliezer and his family are deported and taken to a concentration camp by the Nazis. Life akin to descending levels of Hell culminates in the death of the boy's father. When he is finally liberated from the camps, his faith has been shattered and his self-worth emptied out.
          Comments: What was most remarkable about this Oprah-endorsed memoir was how little it hews to the popular memoir's narrative structure of "rough road to redemption." Instead, Wiesel's purpose here is to document his own incremental and irrevocable loss of faith in God and the good of humanity. Evil in this tightly-woven, searing book is not some brightly-colored, sinister yet glamorous Hollywood spectacle; rather, it is banal, brutish, and meaningless. You find yourself horrified how the Hungarian Jews so readily accept the gradual uptick of oppression, but they seem so much like you that you totally understand their position. Even the camps prove to be shockingly ordinary in their absolute horror. (The straightforward, matter of fact prose only amplifies this effect.)
          I have heard the original Yiddish edition of this memoir describes youths who survived the Holocaust returning to Weimar in order "to rape German shiksas." The French edition--and the English edition derived from it (See now why I always make note of the edition I'm reading? Sometimes it does matter.)--neutralizes this little toss-away into "sleep with girls"...presumably to put non-Jewish minds at ease. You know, I wish the rape reference had been left in. It fits with the overall theme of dehumanization, and it is undeniably true in many different contexts that victims soon turn around and become victimizers themselves.
          Notes: mass market paperback, 9th printing; first published in France by Les Editions de Minuit in 1958
          Rating: 7/10 - A fast yet unforgettable read that definitely isn't for the faint at heart. Highly recommended.
21st-Mar-2008 03:17 pm (UTC)
I had to read this in high school, but I don't actually remember much of it now. I think it's on the curriculum for a lot of schools.
21st-Mar-2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
I think it's on the curriculum for a lot of schools.

Yeah, I've heard that. I don't know if any of my high school's classes read it, but mine sure didn't. (We did things like James Joyce instead. >_< )
22nd-Mar-2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
I had to read it in junior-high actually. But from what I remember, I liked the second one (Dawn? Light? something like that...) better.
22nd-Mar-2008 02:19 pm (UTC)
That would have made more sense in the context of my middle school's curriculum, actually. But nope.

My education ended up in the crosshairs of administrative visions to revamp the curriculum for the elite students. >_< Means I've read things in high school more commonly reserved for college classes...but on the other hand, some of the stuff "everyone" read, I never have. Ayn Rand is another one of those standouts, along with Wiesel.
24th-Mar-2008 03:51 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I had very odd reading lists in high school too... for similar reasons. So I've read about half the basic texts. I had to read Rand on my own, along with Jane Austen and James Joyce. But yet we read Amy Tan in class. I still don't understand some of the choices.
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