Book Review of Night and Dawn
"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in the camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never." (9)
These are the words of the acclaimed writer Elie Wiesel. From this simple passage, the reader enters the author's mind and begins their quest for an understanding of the holocaust; its horrors, secrets, and impacts. Wiesel presents these truths through his own anguish which he has metamorphosed into an art. Though classified as a novel, the series, is much a poetic testimony of Wiesel's own personal experiences during the time of the Holocaust. For these reasons, Night is often perceived as a memoir despite the fact that Wiesel is not the protagonist of either books. Yet, a novel will usually concern itself with creating a convincing fictional story: it will make certain to explain the causes and effects of everything that occurs within its fictional world, tying up loose ends and fleshing out all of its characters. Night, however, is concerned solely with Wiesel's personal experience. Whatever events lie outside the narrator's direct observation vanish from the perspective of the memoir. Dawn, though a contiuation of Night, serves more as a commentary to it, and not a memoir. Both are written in the first person, yet in Night, "I" speaks, and in Dawn, "I" listens and questions.
Night opens in 1941 when Eliezer is 12 years old. At the time he is living in the Hungarian town of Sighet. He is the only son in an Orthodox Jewish household, highly observant of Jewish tradition. Eliezer keen interest in Judaism brings him to avidly study the Cabbala, a book based on Jewish mysticism. His instruction is cut short, however, when his teacher, Moche the Beadle, is deported. Moche returns after a few months with a horrifying tale. The Gestapo, or German secret police, took charge of his train, led everybody into the woods, and systematically butchered them. Nobody believes Moche and the small town quickly takes him for a lunatic. Yet, the reality of Moche's experience becomes evident when a series of increasingly repressive measures are passed by the Nazi's who occupy Hungary in the spring of 1944. The Jews of Eliezer's town are herded onto cattle cars, commencing a nightmarish journey: after days and nights crammed into the car, exhausted and near starvation, the passengers arrive at Birkenau, the gateway to the concentration camp, Auschwitz.
At Aushwitz, he and his father are separated from his...