THE FORGOTTEN by Elie Wiesel



"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.
Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0805210199
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1992


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