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Night by Elie Wiesel

19 Dec 2016Literature Essays

Larson: Firstly, as a reporter, it is my duty to congratulate you on your winning the Nobel Prize for such a small book of just 128 pages.

Wiesel: It is a small book going by the number of pages. But going by its contents, it is the story of the four darkest years of the century, which concerns the entire humanity.

Larson: There are several books on World War II, and the Nazi cruelties. What makes your book special?

Wiesel: It is not for me to say that the book is special. Readers have found something touching about the contents. But I do wish to say one thing. The book is not written by pen, but through the strong emotions of the heart.

Larson: What was the special appeal about the contents of the book?

Wiesel: The story of the intense human tragedy. Many of the readers of the book, who directly and indirectly suffered the consequences of World War II, must have recollected their missing mother, raped sister, God forbid, friends and relatives, blood stream, the flying pieces of human flesh and the stinking bodies etc.

Larson: Now, coming to your inpidual suffering, what was the life like between the years 1941 to 1945?

Wiesel: The expectation of death every moment! The strong feeling that how God can run the affairs of human beings like this? How, human beings, claiming to be sparks of pinity, behave in such a dastardly manner. How can they gas the babies, bayonet and kill them in the most heinous manner?  Why those who have the cross dangling on the neck, have no Christ in the heart?

Larson: Please describe in detail about the concentration camps.

Wiesel: It doesn’t need the intelligent vocabulary for the graphic description. Horrid, horrid and more horrid! As I and my father were shifted from camp to camp, we never thought we shall stay alive to reach the next camp. With every shifting, the number of internees diminished. The style in which internees were butchered, are not even comparable to an animal slaughterhouse. Even the killing of animals has a purpose-to secure meat and protein for the appetite of human beings. Here the killings were purposeless. Without any previous enmity!

Larson: Name the worst thing that happened to you.

Wiesel: That I am still alive…the day we were separated from the rest of the family, mother and my dear sister, life was worst than death thereafter. We were a happy family.

Larson: As a boy of 15 then, how did you absorb such grave shocks?

Wiesel: My father beside was a great consolation. But for his presence, I just do not know what would have happened to me. Perhaps I would have been a patient in the lunatic asylum.

Larson: And what was the silver lining?

Wiesel: The final liberation by the American troops.

Larson: Did you ever have the ambition to become a writer?

Wiesel: Never—nor did I have any opportunity or enthusiasm to write down the notes of the day to day happenings during those four demonic years. Slightest suspicion on the part of the camp authorities would invite tortuous death. The dark events that were committed to memory, also by knowing which, the world outside would have a chance to know the realities of that ignoble period, are taken care of in the book. The description of the brutalities can go on and on endlessly. That is not the main purpose of the book. The book is a silent prayer to humanity that all must strive that such events are never repeated in future.

Larson: How this can be achieved?

Wiesel: If you mean any political creeds such as Capitalism, Socialism, Communism or Fascism can achieve it, it is impossible. The inpiduals are he building bricks of the society. The inpiduals need to change. Can any religion change people?  The answer is both yes and no. Any religion, as it is practiced by the followers today, can not change the society. Mind-level conflicts are bogging down the real growth of religions. But practice of true spirituality can change human beings. Spirituality is something that transcends the mind. At that level, all differences cease; conflicts are no more there. We need to give such an orientation to human beings, right from childhood. When the thought process of the inpiduals changes, the action process also changes! When the thoughts are changed, the mind is changed; when the mind is changed, the man is changed; when the man is changed, the society is changed. Universal peace then becomes an attainable reality.

Larson: How your ‘Night” is different from your other works ‘A Beggar in Jerusalem, The Fifth Son etc.

Wiesel: They are also issue-based books. But Night is something special. Such a book can be written by any author only once in the lifetime. It is a not a well-researched book as such. It is straight from the heart. It is the song of my life and that of my Jewish community.

Larson: From a boy in the concentration camp, to become a Professor at the Boston University, and to win the Nobel Prize! Is not the change metamorphic? Don’t you still believe in God?

Wiesel: An inpidual thinks of issues related to God etc. from the level of the progression of his mind. It is true that as an intensely suffering and a boy with a shattered personality and the devastated family, anybody in my position would turn cynical and will not believe in the existence of God. I was not wrong then; and I am not wrong now.  Some Supreme Power ever runs affairs of the world.

Larson: Night is your first novel. Its success rate is tremendous. What are your feelings about it?

Wiesel: Not one of joy for the success as such. It is the success of human tragedy. But if the number of copies sold is any indication, for the stir that it created in the reader’s heart, and for the positive outcomes of the same—well, I feel I am amply rewarded.

Larson: Recollection of the past is sweet, when the present state of affairs is sound. Is that so in your case well?

Wiesel: No. How do you say that the present state of affairs is sound? Mindless violence on various pretexts is happening even now, tough on a smaller scale. This has to totally stop. Wiesel can never be the normal man, whatever is the level of present comfortable conditions. The image of the horror camps and that of the pile of stinking bodies at the crematoriums is ever imprinted on the portals of his mind.

Larson: Thank you very much for the information Mr. Wiesel. Any final message to the humanity!

Wiesel: The pages of human history daubed in bloodshed on account of mindless violence in World War I and II, Nanking, Nazi concentration camps, religious intolerance, color and race conflicts, aggrandizement of wealth, and territorial annexations, ask the crying question. How to make this Planet Earth heaven-like? The answer is simple and direct, Eyes full of understanding, hearts full of love and the life that refuses conflicts—enough, these alone are enough!

References Cited:

  • Wiesel, Elie: Book: Night.
  • Mass Market Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (March 1, 1982)
  • Language: English ISBN-10: 0553272535, ISBN-13: 978-0553272536

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