Wiesel takes us on a journey through dream, memory and especially storytelling in his latest novel, which concerns Shaltiel Feigenberg, who in 1975, is captured and imprisoned for 80 hours in a basement by two captors.
Feigenberg is politically unimportant and practically unknown before his capture, but soon thereafter he becomes front-page news, though his plight is reported in wildly different ways by the world press. His captors represent divergent political realities. One, Luigi, is an Italian political revolutionary with no particular animus against Jews, while the second, Ahmed, is a passionate advocate for Palestine with an intense hatred for the “Zionist cause.” Perhaps predictably, a “bad cop–good cop” dynamic develops as they tend to Feigenberg, Luigi gradually freeing him from restraints while Ahmed rails with fanatic fervor against all that Feigenberg represents to him. Luigi and Ahmed are motivated by “humanitarian” concerns—they demand that three Palestinian prisoners be freed in exchange for Feigenberg’s freedom—rather than materialistic ones. Feigenberg is mystified by his captivity, for he’s simply a professional storyteller with a special fondness for spinning his tales to children and the elderly. This forced period of darkness ironically provides him with an extended period of enlightenment, as he has time to reflect on his life—the death of his grandmother at Auschwitz, his frequently absent but observant father, his initial meeting with Blanca (the woman who eventually becomes his wife), and the growing Communist sympathies of his older brother. He begins to frame the narrative of his life in much the same way he frames the stories he makes up to entertain others. Even the Israeli government—a government that notoriously does not negotiate with terrorists—gets involved in trying to track down the elusive captive.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Wiesel continues to remind us of the brilliant possibilities of the philosophical and political novel.
Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children.
He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions.
The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.
Drenched with sad yearning, yet narrated with simplicity in the limpid singsong that distinguishes his oral as well as written narrative, Wiesel's memoir reveals much, if not enough, about the man whose purpose in life has been to testify to the fate of his people. Journalist, novelist (A Beggar in Jerusalem, 1969; The Forgotten, 1992, etc.), moralist, witness to the Holocaust (Night, 1960): This is the Wiesel we have always known. What do we learn about the unknown Wiesel as he tells of his life from his childhood in the Transylvanian town of Sighet through his marriage in 1969, where this volume ends? Vividly recreating the intense Jewish life of Sighet, he paints a young Elie who's a dreamer and a mystic. One of the most engaging (and tragic) episodes is his aattempt with two friends to use the Kabbalah to force the arrival of the Messiah. This hubristic act of idealism ends with two of the boys falling mad. Later, with disarming honesty, Wiesel depicts the shy, sexually and politically naive, overly serious teenager who arrived in Paris in the late '40s. We read of his timid first kiss with Hanna, the beautiful young woman who proposed marriage to him; his more fervent first kiss with Kathleen, a Gentile who was engaged to another man. But when he meets his wife-to-be, Wiesel not unexpectedly falls silent about romance. Similarly, he alludes to a religious crisis but doesn't elaborate on the battle that must have raged inside him. Much of the volume relates the extraordinary people Wiesel has met, from Moshe the beadle, Sighet's first witness to Germany's Final Solution; to Joseph Givon, an adventurer who may or may not have been a double agent; to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who challenged the author to a baffling drinking contest one holiday evening. Through it all Wiesel testifies vividly indeed to Jewish history: the birth of Israel, the Six-Day War, the capture of Jerusalem. And he ceaselessly pricks the conscience of a world that thinks it is possible to have heard "enough" about the Holocaust.
The latest from the Nobel Peace Prize–winning author of Night(1960) asks big questions about good and evil, art and reality, yet ultimately finds its narrator concluding, “Suddenly, I don’t understand anything anymore. Why life? Why death?”
The Jewish protagonist is a New York newspaper drama critic who finds himself in the unlikely position of covering a murder trial. (Both of the reporters on the court beat for the paper are conveniently unavailable.) The case is both simple and unfathomable. A 24-year-old philosophy student from Germany receives an unexpected visitor, an older German who introduces himself as the student’s uncle. They decide to go away for a week together in the Adirondacks. The student returns without the older man, whose dead body is later found, leading to the murder charge. Though some had heard the two argue, there is no motive, no weapon, no deeper understanding of their relationship. Was the death an act of murder, suicide or an accident? The defendant is no help, proclaiming himself (as a philosophy student would), “not guilty but not innocent.” The critic’s obsession with the case (which doesn’t really commence until a third of the way through the novel) upsets his theater-loving wife, but it leads to all sorts of grand pronouncements about the courtroom as theater as well as larger questions such as, “Was life a string of roles?” Long after the end of the trial, a meeting between the critic and the defendant resolves some mysteries, yet by that time other, related mysteries have arisen concerning the critic’s own identity. For no apparent reason, the first-person narrative occasionally shifts into the third person, as the protagonist ponders “the vague feeling that his life or the meaning of life had escaped him,” and asks, “Since I’m not the man I thought I knew, who am I?”
Nobel Prize-winner Wiesel (All Rivers Run to the Sea, 1996, etc.) concludes his memoirs in his characteristically engaging and conversational tone.
Wiesel tells us about his marriage to Marion (“for the first time, at age forty, I experience daily life with a woman”), his frequent meals with Golda Meir and Teddy Kolleck, and the birth of his son Elisha. We read about his exploits as human rights activist: a meeting in Paris to protest UNESCO’s policy towards Israel; a 1980 march for Cambodia; his efforts to get Abraham Sarfati, a Moroccan Jewish political prisoner, released; a trip to South Africa to witness apartheid; testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about ratifying the Genocide Treaty (“when I find out that Jesse Helms is chairing the session, my instinct is to turn around and head back to New York”). We follow Wiesel’s teaching exploits at City College, Boston University, and Yale. We accompany him on a speaking tour that takes him from Washington to Moscow, and we hear Lamentations read at a Tisha B’Av service in Warsaw. Of the conversations with famous folks Wiesel reports, the most interesting is his meeting with Jean-Marie Lustiger, the Jewish-born archbishop of Paris, who explains to Wiesel why he still considers himself a Jew, even as Wiesel explains to Lustiger why Jews find that position untenable. Finally, Wiesel attempts to come to grips with the suicides of three writers – Primo Levi, Jerzy Kosinski, and Piotr Rawicz. It is, to be sure, the memoir of a famous man, one who assumes his travels and conversations and stage fright are interesting simply because they are his. He is not always right – but the many times he is make the book worthwhile. (16 pages photos)
Reflections by the Nobel-winning philosopher and novelist on the prophets, scribes, and rebbes who comprise the histories and myths of Jewish folklore. Most of these essays were originally given as lectures at the 92nd Street Y in New York, and even in written form they preserve the tone and tempo of extemporary speech. The style is anecdotal rather than scholarly, and Wiesel does not hesitate to bring his opinions to bear (such as on the story of Jephthah, for instance, of which he declares, "This story is...so frightening that I wish it could be erased from Scripture"). Such an approach is bound to have its drawbacks, and Wiesel's treatment of the Bible leaves much to be desired: It is to his credit that he examines it as a narrative of spiritually resonant stories rather than as a scholarly text, but he seems rather too anxious to draw particular conclusions (especially in regard to the paradox of suffering) from passages that do not necessarily support his view. HIS consideration of the Talmud is much more insightful, and his tales of the great Hasidic rebbes form the best part of the book: a fascinating mosaic of hagiography and legend. Behind all of these accounts is the tragic awareness, sometimes explicit but usually unspoken, of the catastrophe that would ultimately strike the Jews of Europe, a catastrophe that Wiesel himself witnessed and survived. His book provides clear testimony of the survival, not only of an individual soul but an entire history. Informative and moving: a rich collage.
"To forget is to abandon, to forget is to repudiate." One of the main themes sounded by Wiesel in his many essays and novels is the essential function of memory, which allows us to grant dignity and honor to one life and one death or to many lives, many deaths. Here, in a rather stiff-jointed novel (though stirring as a kind of spiritual manifesto), an elderly Holocaust survivor faces the relentless progress of a disease that is destroying his memory, while his son takes a journey to the past—his father's past—to substitute his own memory for the father's. Malkiel Rosenbaum, writer of obituaries for The New York Times, travels to the small village in Romania where his father Elhanan was born. Elhanan had escaped the mass killing and deportation by some hideous chance as a teenager, became part of the Russian army, was a partisan, and married on the refugee ship on its way to Palestine. But within those facts are many lives betrayed, innocence slaughtered, heroic and terrible deaths. During Malkiel's visits to the village cemetery, he meets the deformed gravedigger, self-styled "last Jew" of the town—a traditional mocking, cackling figure of death itself who conjures up tales of demons and sages and tells the tale of the Great Reunion of dead and buried rabbinical judges, who can't stop a train carrying the doomed. At the last, there's another ancient—blind with tears shed for all that have gone. His advice to Malkiel is to leave the dead. (But Malkiel will once again assault the past in the person of an old woman, who, as her younger self, bad tormented Elhanan's memory.) Finally, Malkiel returns to "forge new links within the ambiguities of life." Another wise and somber facet of Wiesel's exploration of the nurturing bonds between generations of living and dead.
From the prolific Nobelist, a novel rather artificially constructed—but for the worthy purpose of looking inside to find what meaning life can hold for any of us.
An airliner en route to Israel is forced down at a small airport on the blizzard-swept east coast, where the “survivors” are picked up by locals and given shelter until as the plane can take off again. Five of them are so unlucky as to be escorted home by a very strange man indeed, who puts them—imprisons them—in a sealed room, announces himself a “judge,” and declares his intent to play “games” with what’s most precious to them, “the power of their imagination.” As the “games” grow increasingly sinister—the judge at first insists only that each reveal something personal, but before the long night is over he’ll demand that one be chosen as an assassination victim—the travelers, increasingly frightened, become also increasingly introspective, so that we learn more and more about each of their lives. There is Claudia, a theater producer and director; Bruce Schwarz, an aging roué; Yoav, an Israeli soldier with a secret deadly disease; George Kirsten, a scholarly archivist; and, most central, Razziel Friedman, head of a Talmudic school in Brooklyn. As the life of each is revealed, so is the reason each has for continuing to live: a love affair, a historically important paper to deliver, or, as in Razziel’s case, an appointment with a mysterious figure who is to restore to him the memory of his life before age 18, lost in the ruinous trauma of his having been a political prisoner. There will be moments of memory, kindness, breakdown, pensiveness, and terror before an ending that (engineered by the judge’s hunchback “servant”) will seem convincing perhaps to few. But no matter. Wiesel, by then, will have entered the hearts, rewardingly, both of his characters and of his readers.
Human, unpretentious, compelling explorations of what we are, and why.
Nobel Prize–winning novelist and memoirist Wiesel (The Judges, 2002, etc.) leads readers on a spirited, sometimes contentious journey through Jewish history and thought.
“Just as the Torah has no beginning,” writes Wiesel, “the Talmud has no end. Each succeeding generation of scholars contributes to its growth and its power.” Those scholars famously find much to argue about in the layers and layers of earlier commentary, and Wiesel reveals himself to be a wise and humane arbiter himself in pondering some of the finer points of their learned discussions, as even-handed (and sometimes tentative) as his great hero, the medieval Talmudist Rashi. Along the way, Wiesel considers some classic—and some modern—puzzles. If Abraham was such a great guy, then why did he banish Ishmael and have that terrible moment with Isaac? Why such harsh punishment for Lot’s nameless wife, turned to a pillar of salt for having ignored instructions not to look back on a scourged Sodom? (“Only because she looked where it was forbidden to look?” writes Wiesel. “So what! If our own gaze could kill us, there would not be enough room for all the cemeteries on our planet.”) Why did Aaron, to name just one ancestor, have such a rough time at the hands of a jealous God? Why is it so difficult for a Christian, say, to convert to Judaism? And, finally, “Must the ineffable remain outside the realm of words, simply because there are no words? Can Auschwitz be understood by anyone who wasn’t there?”
Wiesel proposes few definitive answers—here, the question mark appears as often as the period. But his explorations, drawing on the collective wisdom of prophets, rabbis, and scholars from the earliest days to the present, are endlessly illuminating.
“Do you know why God created us? So we could tell one another stories.” Novelist, memoirist and folklorist Wiesel (Wise Men and Their Tales, 2003, etc.) blends fiction, legend and perhaps reminiscence in a moving tale of a fast-disappearing time.
Gamaliel Friedman is a lover of stories, a habit he acquired young from his father, who “used to say that a man without a story is poorer than the poorest of men.” Friedman knows all about being poor; displaced from his native Czechoslovakia by the Nazi annexation, he spent his early years in hiding, depending on the kindness of a Hungarian woman for survival. Fleeing Hungary after the 1956 uprising, he arrives in America and begins to trade in new stories, and in two ways. First, he becomes a ghostwriter, an accidental trade that allows him the wherewithal to work on his own “Secret Book”; the “sorry collections of clichés that he ground out as a writer for hire were of no further interest to him,” Wiesel writes, so long as the checks arrived. Second, he begins to collect the tales told by his circle of friends, many of them veterans of the Spanish Civil War and WWII, who, having come to the gates of the new millennium, provocatively call themselves the “Elders of Zion.” Among others, there are Bolek, “sometimes taciturn, sometimes blustering,” and Diego, an anarchist who speaks Lithuanian-tinged Yiddish, and regretful Yasha, all of them lovers of stories who live in a world whose tales sometimes cannot be told—for some of them have survived horrors that resist description. Yet “God is not silent,” says a rabbi in one piece. “It is by His silence that He calls to you. Are you answering him?” Each moment here is an answer of sorts, as Friedman comes to the side of a desperately ill woman who just may be the one who saved him all those years ago.
Interactions between a patient and his therapist elucidate the human condition in the latest from Nobel Prize winner Wiesel (The Time of the Uprooted, 2005, etc.).
“Is a madman who knows he’s mad really mad?” the narrator imagines the reader asking on the first page of the novel. “Or: In a mad world, isn’t the madman who is aware of his madness the only sane person?” The novel’s self-absorbed protagonist, Doriel Waldman, might not be mad at all, though he could well be delusional, is obviously troubled and is very much alone. He’s also uncommonly bright and perceptive, a challenge for his female therapist, whose notes on her sessions with Doriel comprise much of the novel that isn’t his narration. During the course of their therapy sessions, she learns of his life with his parents in Brooklyn—his mother, who could pass as Aryan and served in the undercover Resistance, and his father, whose features were more recognizably Jewish. Both of them died in an automobile accident after the war, and both of his siblings are dead as well. The orphaned Doriel came to live in Brooklyn with relatives, failing to fill the hole left by the deaths in his family with a series of encounters with girls and women, who may or may not be imaginary. His doctor knows he is independently wealthy, but not why, and she suspects that he may be a virgin, though he is somewhere around 60 years old. With most of the novel transpiring in Doriel’s memory and in his sessions, he seems less like a madman than an existential Everyman, one for whom “being born is more like exile than liberation.” He finds himself in a state of perpetual fear, “a fear that is not yet death but that is no longer life.” Yet the novel ultimately ends on an affirmative note, a triumph of life’s dance of desire over the madness that is a living death.
Philosophy meets psychology in this profound, often poetic novel.
Throughout his published works, Wiesel, unique among Jewish authors who have survived the holocaust, has continually moved forward into the current Jewish experience, joining terror to hope, death to continuity, anonymity to identity. In parable, spiritual exploration, archaic myth and surreal tableau, Wiesel, through the character of David, a wandering stranger in Jerusalem, adumbrates the tough, pragmatic realities of the Six Day war with the ghosts of Jewish dead, "an echo of voices long extinguished." Among beggars, a tattered group beside the Wall, David hears tales, tells tales, waits for Katriel, son of a Rabbi and a link between ancient and new verities. In David's thoughts persons living and dead merge, break apart and merge again until David understands the heart of suffering and loss. A message from the past is delivered to a victorious Israel—that a people "cured of obsessions and complexes, relieved of mystery and burdens," is a delusion. Nothing has changed, and for those marked for death, solitude is a distinction. In his attempt to touch divine mystery at the core of a blood memory, Wiesel is inclined to veil his steps in arcane speech, difficult time transitions and labyrinthian symbolism, but the intent and the passion is fixed and sustained. For many, a meaningful prophecy.
In this collection of speeches and essays (some reprinted from the New York Times, Parade, etc.), Wiesel pleads passionately for preserving the integrity of memory and language in order to restore meaning to human life and its essential human attribute, language. The Nobel laureate seeks to pierce the screen that separates words from their meanings and keeps people from realizing their dreams and learning from their memories. Over and over, he underlines that language and memory are the only tools we have to help us to acknowledge and formulate the right questions about the abyss that separates us from Holocaust survivors. Admitting the inadequacy of words to bridge the gap, he says, brings us closer to the terror and the truth at the heart of ourselves and our history. Especially moving are accounts of Wiesel's return trips to the scenes of his torment, "Pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Night," "Pilgrimage to Sigher," "Making the Ghosts Speak," and his uncompromising addresses to President Reagan, the Reichstag, and the Nobel audience. Also included are the classic essay "Why I Write"; a shattering memoir inspired by the trial of Klaus Barbie; and dialogue sketches and other pieces. Wiesel continues to speak of shameful and painful events in human history, wounding and enlightening at the same time.
A spare, spectral short novel follows last year's Night and fills in the hours before dawn spent by Elisha, 18, designated to kill an Englishman- in Palestine- at the time when reprisals were ordered: for the hanging of every Jewish fighter, there was to be the execution of an Englishman. Elisha, during this "night of many faces", spends much of it in the past, through the years of "searching and suffering" at Auschwitz which preceded his persuasion to become a terrorist in the Movement. Finally, he goes down to the cell where the Englishman waits- calmly-pityingly- for the boy who will never be able to reconcile what he has been asked to do with his private faith, and who only later will realize that the fear he faces is the fear of what he has become- a killer.... Perhaps not a popular form- or theme, but it leaves an inevitable impress.
Recent essays. The nature of the Jew: "Only a Jew opts for Abraham—who questions—and for God—who is questioned." Autobiographical reminiscences of a friendship with Francois Mauriac. Apartheid in South Africa and the consequent moral dilemma faced by Jews there. A nightmarish return to Wiesel's childhood hometown in Hungary. His Hasidic grandfather, shortly before the Holocaust, cautioning: "You are Jewish, your task is to remain Jewish. The rest is up to God." A lurid but effective quasi-fictional tale about a heretical convert who journeys to a transplanted Hasidic settlement in Israel after the Holocaust to explain that his heresy was designed to "punish" God for not saving the Jews. Best of all—and, as always with Wiesel, acerbic, accusatory, uncompromising—is a closing critique of our lately "desanctified" Holocaust literature. "Ask any survivor. He will confirm to you that it was easier for him to imagine himself free in Auschwitz than it would be for you to imagine yourself a prisoner there." Saying "Auschwitz, never heard of it" may be no worse than saying "Oh, yes, we know all about it." "Accept the idea that you will never penetrate the cursed and spellbound universe [survivors] carry within themselves with unfailing loyalty. . . . If you cannot communicate with them on their level, do not try to bring them down to yours." No cumulative effect but, with the Holocaust, a strong, inescapable impact.
Inside "the kingdom of night"—the concentration camp—Wiesel actually witnessed a trial which put God up as the accused, charged with being either accepting of or blind to the murder of HIS chosen people. Now he's made it into a dramatic parable, set in 1649 in a Russian village that's just undergone a pogrom. Only two Jews remain, an innkeeper and his violated daughter. When roving minstrels arrive by accident at the devastated town and offer to put on a Purim play, the innkeeper suggests they hold a trial instead. "I want to understand why He is giving the killers the strength and the victims the tears and the shame of helplessness. . . . Listen: either He is responsible or He is not. If He is, let's judge Him; if He is not, let Him stop judging us." A stranger, clearly Satan, arrives to serve as defense attorney. The argument he puts forward is essentially that the kingdom of death is God's to add to as he wishes; His miracle is to allow even one Jew to survive as testimony—and one always does survive. The kernel, then, is arresting; but the dialogue is stir and lifeless, and two of the three acts seem long prologues and little else. Finding a shape for the ultimate seriousness that infuses his thought remains Wiesel's thorn; his success here again is only intermittent.
To convey the truth of the holocaust in its totality...(the writer) must add as well the silence left behind by millions of unknowns...One cannot conceive of the holocaust except as a mystery, begotten by the dead." As in the novel, Beggar in Jerusalem (1969) and other works, Wiesel gropes in the lengthening shadows to understand — his own kind of death at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, the death of millions and all he had known, the meaning of individual and Jewish survival. Again his approach is deliberately scattered — fantastic dialogues with the dead and his own abstracted awarenesses; mythic appearances, real and apocryphal from camps, liberated Europe, Russia and Israel. And among the threads of Covenants sealed and broken, individual Jews restate a heritage: the prince-beggar riding forth to meet Death; an Israeli "atheist" commander who nonetheless felt "we were on our way to keep an appointment" in Jerusalem; defiant Jews dancing in Moscow streets. To be a Jew today, insists Wiesel, is to "testify. To bear witness to what is and what is no longer." He denounces young Jews (and Germans) who will not take account of the fact of yesterday's evils. ("Without Auschwitz there would have been no Hiroshima.") Wiesel's tales, lectures and commemorative griefs are moving, penetrating, often raspingly excessive — the result perhaps of attempting an honest stance before the inexplicable.
Translated from the French by Francis Frenaye, this is a novel about the face of the Jewish people and the challenge to the face of one Jew—a Hungarian called Gregor. It starts out in Hungary at the onset of World War II. Gregor's parents, eventually slaughtered by the Nazis, have left their seventeen year old son in a cave. There he waits for the war to end and also for the Messiah to come finally and stop the holocaust. He encounters Gavriel in the ave, an ecstatic Jew who gives his life to save the boy's. Gavriel claims he has spoken to Elijah and that Elijah has told him: "The Messiah is not coming. He's not coming because he has already come...the Messiah is everywhere." It is long after the war when Gregor realizes the substance of Gavriel's truth. But he must first witness the horror "that's the purpose of war. It intensifies and underlines everything strange." He becomes involved with it as a resistance worker, masquerades as a deaf mute in acting the role of Judas, and searches in Europe and then in America for Gavriel: "To save the only Jew who has information about the fate of our brothers is an obligation." Gavriel however, is just a surrogate Messiah and to need him, Gregor learns, is in effect to relinquish the faith that he is everywhere: in the defiant laugh of Gavriel, in the song of the Hasidim, and in Auschwitz too. It has all been said before but Mr. Wiesel puts it down as well as anyone.
The victim is saying his Prayers — Prayers directed towards a God he has never really found in all his obsessive fanatic searches for Him. Michael remembers the searches during his Prayers, remembers his pre-pogrom, Hassidic childhood in Hungary's "City of Luck," remembers his refugee's despair in a Paris of exile, remembers his one true friend, Pedro, and remembers, most and worst of all, the samples of human indifference that mock at life and make any God hard to find. In fact, ll of Michael's memories, all his desires to get back at time by going back in it have an ironic mockery all their own. For he is a prisoner now in his own birthplace, arrested during a three-day flight into the past; and the Prayers are the method of his torture. He must stand against the wall, as the Jews stand to pray, until he falls from bloated legs or confesses his "real" reasons for being in Hungary. No confession, Pedro would be the price. Instead, Michael stands, prays and remembers until he drops into his end, a prison cell. His own indifference is avenged by his care for a demented young prisoner; and if he is mad at the end, it is a madness that he values. The book is weighted with philosophical torments, spiritual abstractions, and the streak of dementia which gives it its power. The sufferings of the Jews (or of humanity) are introverted here into a picture something like the back-view of one of hagall's tortured prophets.
Again Wiesel's richly somber, close and faintly cantorial prose flows over and repolishes the same impenetrable mysteries: that the massacre of innocents transmits a lifelong burden to the survivor; and that the survivor, both doomed and blessed, is forced to confront the knowledge of death which is "not a solution but a question, the most human question of all." This is the narrative of Azriel, the Na-venadnik or perpetual wanderer, who tells the story of his murdered Jewish village — his search for the "soul of the world" among holy men, rationalists, pragmatists and the sacred certainties of beggars and madmen. But Azriel is under an oath of silence, demanded of the village by the "madman" Moshe in the hours before the holocaust — is not testimony Death's ally, the articulation of killing inevitably linked to the act? Therefore, proclaimed Moshe, "we will testify no more." However, since death is "the primary defect. . . in creation," Azriel does tell his story to a young listener to prevent his suicide — to cheat death. Wiesel confronts concepts of fact and symbol and God and man while the meditations, Talmudic discourse, and tales of bestiality and nobility converge toward that night of absolute fear preceding the massacre — and the author mounts horror like a lectern. As in Beggar in Jerusalem (1970) and others, Wiesel examines the possibility of answers to the human dilemma with the experiential agony inherent in the question. Demanding and rewarding.