Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Elie Wiesel's Night: A Short Response

Having just finished Elie Wiesel's Night, I thought I'd offer a few reflections. It is impossible to convey the absolute horror of this book. To those who deny the Holocaust - read this book, there is no way someone could make this stuff up. It is a testament to the human struggle to survive no matter the obstacles, a testament to the importance of having something to live for, and having the fortitude to say "never again."

Wiesel's book is short, just over 100 pages. It is a quick read, perhaps possible in one sitting. The prose is primarily short sentences, with quick jabs of action and past/future flashes. The narrative is written autobiographically, with great detail in some of the most painful and gut-wrenching episodes. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that these events really happened. Though there has been some discussion as to how the narrative has changed from the first edition (published over 40 years ago) and the most recent edition, the harsh reality is this: Wiesel was a victim, and as such, he has the right to tell his story. Yes, it is a perspective, but it is a far closer perspective than any of us can offer. For that reason, it is historically valuable and credible, despite certain narrative changes that may have occured (with translations, it's anybody's guess).

Theologically, I think this book is necessary for anyone who takes the discussion of God seriously. Wiesel poses the question: how is belief in a God of compassion and mercy possible after the Holocaust? It is a real and tangible question. It is laced with many implications. Should we reconsider classical theism? Should we re-think how God acts in human history? What is to be learned from the Holocaust?

I recommend this book - but only to those who have a strong stomach. Though the novel isn't all graphic, it is an emotional circus. It's one of those books that will expand your mind; it will help you question what is real and what is valuble. And, as to be assumed, it will remind you that your life isn't really that bad.

If you haven't read Night, you should. I'm going to put it on my long list of "musts" for theology students.

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