"Never shall I forget that night, that first night in camp, which turned my life into one long night..."
This is a hard book to review because of its sheer power and emotional impact it had on me. When it comes to non-fiction that is this harrowing, I question how justified I am in critiquing it at all. Short answer: I'm not. Instead I'll express the facts. Night is one man's story of his experiences in concentration camps during World War II. Elie Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968 for his "message of peace and commitment to embrace all repressed peoples and races." Sharing his experience in WWII concentration camps was Wiesel's first step in his call for peace and tolerance toward Jews and other persecuted religious and racial groups.
The title "Night" works on a few different levels. Most simply, it's a metaphor for the sense of darkness that permeated Nazi controlled Europe, signifying the idea that the days felt like night because of the gloom and despair that continuously pervaded day to day life. There was also a reoccurring theme of disappearing into the night, being taken from the places you once called home without a trace. The novel reads like fiction, communicating the horrific cruelty that the human race is capable of and the incredible instinct to survive in a nearly hopeless situation.
Night. No one was praying for the night to pass quickly. The stars were but sparks of the immense conflagration that was consuming us. Were this conflagration to be extinguished one day, nothing would be left in the sky but extinct stars and unseeing eyes.Needless to say, Night does not end on a hopeful note. Wiesel states, "One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed me never left me." This was a tough book to read; its an intensely disturbing account of torture and trauma, physically and mentally. I was thankful it was on the shorter side because I honestly don't know that I could handle a 300-plus page novel so intense. Wiesel's followup to the book, Dawn, was published in 1960. I can only hope (and loosely assume based on its title) that he was able to begin to cope with the horrific experiences he endured.
I read this for the classics challenge, fulfilling a classic literature in translation.
Publisher: Hill and Wang, 1955